Hence it follows that the crest exhibits a slight, though uncertain, tendency to be reduced in prominence in a greater degree than does the length of the sternum relatively to the size of body, in comparison with the rock-pigeon.

I have measured the length of the scapula in nine different large and small-sized breeds, and in all the scapula is proportionally shorter (taking the same standard as before) than in the wild rock-pigeon. The reduction in length on an average is very nearly one-fifth of an inch, or about one-ninth of the length of the scapula in the rock-pigeon.

The arms of the furcula in all the specimens which I compared, diverged less, proportionally with the size of body, than in the rock-pigeon; and the whole furculum was proportionally shorter. Thus in a Runt, which measured from tip to tip of wings 38 1/2 inches, the furculum was only a very little longer (with the arms hardly more divergent) than in a rock- pigeon which measured from tip to tip 26 1/2 inches. In a Barb, which in all its measurements was a little larger than the same rock-pigeon, the furculum was a quarter of an inch shorter. In a Pouter, the furculum had not been lengthened proportionally with the increased length of the body. In a Short-faced Tumbler, which measured from tip to tip of wings 24 inches, therefore only 2 1/2 inches less than the rock-pigeon, the furculum was barely two-thirds of the length of that of the rock-pigeon.]

We thus clearly see that the sternum, scapula, and furculum are all reduced in proportional length; but when we turn to the wings we find what at first appears a wholly different and unexpected result. I may here remark that I have not picked out specimens, but have used every measurement made by me. Taking the length from the base of beak to the end of the tail as the standard of comparison, I find that, out of thirty-five birds of various breeds, twenty-five have wings of greater, and ten have them of less proportional length, than in the rock-pigeon. But from the frequently correlated length of the tail and wing-feathers, it is better to take as the standard of comparison the length from the base of the beak to the oil- gland; and by this standard, out of twenty-six of the same birds which had been thus measured, twenty-one had wings too long, and only five had them too short. In the twenty-one birds the wings exceeded in length those of the rock-pigeon, on an average, by 1 1/3 inch; whilst in the five birds they were less in length by only .8 of an inch. As I was much surprised that the wings of closely confined birds should thus so frequently have been increased in length, it occurred to me that it might be solely due to the greater length of the wing-feathers; for this certainly is the case with the Jacobin, which has wings of unusual length. As in almost every case I had measured the folded wings, I subtracted the length of this terminal part from that of the expanded wings, and thus I obtained, with a moderate degree of accuracy, the length of the wings from the ends of the two radii, answering from wrist to wrist in our arms. The wings, thus measured in the same twenty-five birds, now gave a widely different result; for they were proportionally with those of the rock-pigeon too short in seventeen birds, and in only eight too long. Of these eight birds, five were long-beaked (5/39. It perhaps deserves notice that besides these five birds two of the eight were Barbs, which, as I have shown, must be classed in the same group with the long-beaked Carriers and Runts. Barbs may properly be called short-beaked Carriers. It would, therefore, appear as if, during the reduction of their beaks, their wings had retained a little of that excess of length which is characteristic of their nearest relations and progenitors.), and this fact perhaps indicates that there is some correlation of the length of the beak with the length of the bones of the wings, in the same manner as with that of the feet and tarsi. The shortening of the humerus and radius in the seventeen birds may probably be attributed to disuse, as in the case of the scapula and furculum to which the wing-bones are attached;--the lengthening of the wing-feathers, and consequently the expansion of the wings from tip to tip, being, on the other hand, as completely independent of use and disuse as is the growth of the hair or wool on our long-haired dogs or long-woolled sheep.

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book