Prof. Laycock sums up the character of brute-like idiots by calling them "theroid;" 'Journal of Mental Science,' July 1863. Dr. Scott ('The Deaf and Dumb,' 2nd ed. 1870, p. 10) has often observed the imbecile smelling their food. See, on this same subject, and on the hairiness of idiots, Dr. Maudsley, 'Body and Mind,' 1870, pp. 46-51. Pinel has also given a striking case of hairiness in an idiot.)


Many of the cases to be here given, might have been introduced under the last heading. When a structure is arrested in its development, but still continues growing, until it closely resembles a corresponding structure in some lower and adult member of the same group, it may in one sense be considered as a case of reversion. The lower members in a group give us some idea how the common progenitor was probably constructed; and it is hardly credible that a complex part, arrested at an early phase of embryonic development, should go on growing so as ultimately to perform its proper function, unless it had acquired such power during some earlier state of existence, when the present exceptional or arrested structure was normal. The simple brain of a microcephalous idiot, in as far as it resembles that of an ape, may in this sense be said to offer a case of reversion. (38. In my 'Variation of Animals under Domestication' (vol. ii. p. 57), I attributed the not very rare cases of supernumerary mammae in women to reversion. I was led to this as a probable conclusion, by the additional mammae being generally placed symmetrically on the breast; and more especially from one case, in which a single efficient mamma occurred in the inguinal region of a woman, the daughter of another woman with supernumerary mammae. But I now find (see, for instance, Prof. Preyer, 'Der Kampf um das Dasein,' 1869, s. 45) that mammae erraticae, occur in other situations, as on the back, in the armpit, and on the thigh; the mammae in this latter instance having given so much milk that the child was thus nourished. The probability that the additional mammae are due to reversion is thus much weakened; nevertheless, it still seems to me probable, because two pairs are often found symmetrically on the breast; and of this I myself have received information in several cases. It is well known that some Lemurs normally have two pairs of mammae on the breast. Five cases have been recorded of the presence of more than a pair of mammae (of course rudimentary) in the male sex of mankind; see 'Journal of Anat. and Physiology,' 1872, p. 56, for a case given by Dr. Handyside, in which two brothers exhibited this peculiarity; see also a paper by Dr. Bartels, in 'Reichert's and du Bois-Reymond's Archiv.,' 1872, p. 304. In one of the cases alluded to by Dr. Bartels, a man bore five mammae, one being medial and placed above the navel; Meckel von Hemsbach thinks that this latter case is illustrated by a medial mamma occurring in certain Cheiroptera. On the whole, we may well doubt if additional mammae would ever have been developed in both sexes of mankind, had not his early progenitors been provided with more than a single pair.

In the above work (vol. ii. p. 12), I also attributed, though with much hesitation, the frequent cases of polydactylism in men and various animals to reversion. I was partly led to this through Prof. Owen's statement, that some of the Ichthyopterygia possess more than five digits, and therefore, as I supposed, had retained a primordial condition; but Prof. Gegenbaur ('Jenaischen Zeitschrift,' B. v. Heft 3, s. 341), disputes Owen's conclusion. On the other hand, according to the opinion lately advanced by Dr. Gunther, on the paddle of Ceratodus, which is provided with articulated bony rays on both sides of a central chain of bones, there seems no great difficulty in admitting that six or more digits on one side, or on both sides, might reappear through reversion. I am informed by Dr. Zouteveen that there is a case on record of a man having twenty-four fingers and twenty-four toes! I was chiefly led to the conclusion that the presence of supernumerary digits might be due to reversion from the fact that such digits, not only are strongly inherited, but, as I then believed, had the power of regrowth after amputation, like the normal digits of the lower vertebrata.

Charles Darwin

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