When we try to perform some little action which is difficult and requires precision, for instance, to thread a needle, we generally close our lips firmly, for the sake, I presume, of not disturbing our movements by breathing; and I noticed the same action in a young Orang. The poor little creature was sick, and was amusing itself by trying to kill the flies on the window-panes with its knuckles; this was difficult as the flies buzzed about, and at each attempt the lips were firmly compressed, and at the same time slightly protruded.

[17] W. L. Martin, Nat. Hist. of Mamm. Animals, 1841, p. 405.

Although the countenances, and more especially the gestures, of orangs and chimpanzees are in some respects highly expressive, I doubt whether on the whole they are so expressive as those of some other kinds of monkeys. This may be attributed in part to their ears being immovable, and in part to the nakedness of their eyebrows, of which the movements are thus rendered less conspicuous. When, however, they raise their eyebrows their foreheads become, as with us, transversely wrinkled. In comparison with man, their faces are inexpressive, chiefly owing to their not frowning under any emotion of the mind--that is, as far as I have been able to observe, and I carefully attended to this point. Frowning, which is one of the most important of all the expressions in man, is due to the contraction of the corrugators by which the eyebrows are lowered and brought together, so that vertical furrows are formed on the forehead. Both the orang and chimpanzee are said[18] to possess this muscle, but it seems rarely brought into action, at least in a conspicuous manner. I made my hands into a sort of cage, and placing some tempting fruit within, allowed both a young orang and chimpanzee to try their utmost to get it out; but although they grew rather cross, they showed not a trace of a frown. Nor was there any frown when they were enraged. Twice I took two chimpanzees from their rather dark room suddenly into bright sunshine, which would certainly have caused us to frown; they blinked and winked their eyes, but only once did I see a very slight frown. On another occasion, I tickled the nose of a chimpanzee with a straw, and as it crumpled up its face, slight vertical furrows appeared between the eyebrows. I have never seen a frown on the forehead of the orang.

[18] Prof. Owen on the Orang, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1830, p. 28. On the Chimpanzee, see Prof. Macalister, in Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist. vol. vii. 1871, p. 342, who states that the _corrugator supercilii_ is inseparable from the _orbicularis palpebrarum_.

The gorilla, when enraged, is described as erecting its crest of hair, throwing down its under lip, dilating its nostrils, and uttering terrific yells. Messrs. Savage and Wyman[19] state that the scalp can be freely moved backwards and forwards, and that when the animal is excited it is strongly contracted; but I presume that they mean by this latter expression that the scalp is lowered; for they likewise speak of the young chimpanzee, when crying out, as having the eyebrows strongly contracted." The great power of movement in the scalp of the gorilla, of many baboons and other monkeys, deserves notice in relation to the power possessed by some few men, either through reversion or persistence, of voluntarily moving their scalps.[20]

_Astonishment, Terror_--A living fresh-water turtle was placed at my request in the same compartment in the Zoological Gardens with many monkeys; and they showed unbounded astonishment, as well as some fear. This was displayed by their remaining motionless, staring intently with widely opened eyes, their eyebrows being often moved up and down. Their faces seemed somewhat lengthened. They occasionally raised themselves on their hind-legs to get abetter view. They often retreated a few feet, and then turning their heads over one shoulder, again stared intently. It was curious to observe how much less afraid they were of the turtle than of a living snake which I had formerly placed in their compartment;[21] for in the course of a few minutes some of the monkeys ventured to approach and touch the turtle.

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book