The Descent of Man – Day 53 of 151

This statement was a strictly accurate account of what was known when it was made; and it does not appear to me to be more than apparently weakened by the subsequent discovery of the relatively small development of the posterior lobes in the Siamang and in the Howling monkey. Notwithstanding the exceptional brevity of the posterior lobes in these two species, no one will pretend that their brains, in the slightest degree, approach those of the Lemurs. And if, instead of putting Hapale out of its natural place, as Professor Bischoff most unaccountably does, we write the series of animals he has chosen to mention as follows: Homo, Pithecus, Troglodytes, Hylobates, Semnopithecus, Cynocephalus, Cercopithecus, Macacus, Cebus, Callithrix, Hapale, Lemur, Stenops, I venture to reaffirm that the great break in this series lies between Hapale and Lemur, and that this break is considerably greater than that between any other two terms of that series. Professor Bischoff ignores the fact that long before he wrote, Gratiolet had suggested the separation of the Lemurs from the other Primates on the very ground of the difference in their cerebral characters; and that Professor Flower had made the following observations in the course of his description of the brain of the Javan Loris: (75. ‘Transactions of the Zoological Society,’ vol. v. 1862.)

“And it is especially remarkable that, in the development of the posterior lobes, there is no approximation to the Lemurine, short hemisphered brain, in those monkeys which are commonly supposed to approach this family in other respects, viz. the lower members of the Platyrrhine group.”

So far as the structure of the adult brain is concerned, then, the very considerable additions to our knowledge, which have been made by the researches of so many investigators, during the past ten years, fully justify the statement which I made in 1863. But it has been said, that, admitting the similarity between the adult brains of man and apes, they are nevertheless, in reality, widely different, because they exhibit fundamental differences in the mode of their development. No one would be more ready than I to admit the force of this argument, if such fundamental differences of development really exist. But I deny that they do exist. On the contrary, there is a fundamental agreement in the development of the brain in men and apes.

Gratiolet originated the statement that there is a fundamental difference in the development of the brains of apes and that of man–consisting in this; that, in the apes, the sulci which first make their appearance are situated on the posterior region of the cerebral hemispheres, while, in the human foetus, the sulci first become visible on the frontal lobes. (76. “Chez tous les singes, les plis posterieurs se developpent les premiers; les plis anterieurs se developpent plus tard, aussi la vertebre occipitale et la parietale sont-elles relativement tres-grandes chez le foetus. L’Homme presente une exception remarquable quant a l’epoque de l’apparition des plis frontaux, qui sont les premiers indiques; mais le developpement general du lobe frontal, envisage seulement par rapport a son volume, suit les memes lois que dans les singes:” Gratiolet, ‘Memoire sur les plis cerebres de l’Homme et des Primateaux,’ p. 39, Tab. iv, fig. 3.)

This general statement is based upon two observations, the one of a Gibbon almost ready to be born, in which the posterior gyri were “well developed,” while those of the frontal lobes were “hardly indicated” (77. Gratiolet’s words are (loc. cit. p. 39): “Dans le foetus dont il s’agit les plis cerebraux posterieurs sont bien developpes, tandis que les plis du lobe frontal sont a peine indiques.” The figure, however (Pl. iv, fig. 3), shews the fissure of Rolando, and one of the frontal sulci plainly enough. Nevertheless, M. Alix, in his ‘Notice sur les travaux anthropologiques de Gratiolet’ (‘Mem. de la Societe d’Anthropologie de Paris,’ 1868, page 32), writes thus: “Gratiolet a eu entre les mains le cerveau d’un foetus de Gibbon, singe eminemment superieur, et tellement rapproche de l’orang, que des naturalistes tres-competents l’ont range parmi les anthropoides. M. Huxley, par exemple, n’hesite pas sur ce point. Eh bien, c’est sur le cerveau d’un foetus de Gibbon que Gratiolet a vu les circonvolutions du lobe temporo-sphenoidal deja developpees lorsqu’il n’existent pas encore de plis sur le lobe frontal. Il etait donc bien autorise a dire que, chez l’homme les circonvolutions apparaissent d’a en w, tandis que chez les singes elles se developpent d’w en a.”), and the other of a human foetus at the 22nd or 23rd week of uterogestation, in which Gratiolet notes that the insula was uncovered, but that nevertheless “des incisures sement de lobe anterieur, une scissure peu profonde indique la separation du lobe occipital, tres-reduit, d’ailleurs des cette epoque. Le reste de la surface cerebrale est encore absolument lisse.”

Three views of this brain are given in Plate II, figs. 1, 2, 3, of the work cited, shewing the upper, lateral and inferior views of the hemispheres, but not the inner view. It is worthy of note that the figure by no means bears out Gratiolet’s description, inasmuch as the fissure (antero-temporal) on the posterior half of the face of the hemisphere is more marked than any of those vaguely indicated in the anterior half. If the figure is correct, it in no way justifies Gratiolet’s conclusion: “Il y a donc entre ces cerveaux [those of a Callithrix and of a Gibbon@ et celui du foetus humain une difference fondamental. Chez celui-ci, longtemps avant que les plis temporaux apparaissent, les plis frontaux, essayent d’exister.”

Since Gratiolet’s time, however, the development of the gyri and sulci of the brain has been made the subject of renewed investigation by Schmidt, Bischoff, Pansch (78. ‘Ueber die typische Anordnung der Furchen und Windungen auf den Grosshirn-Hemispharen des Menschen und der Affen,’ ‘Archiv fur Anthropologie,’ iii. 1868.), and more particularly by Ecker (79. ‘Zur Entwicklungs Geschichte der Furchen und Windungen der Grosshirn-Hemispharen im Foetus des Menschen.’ ‘Archiv fur Anthropologie,’ iii. 1868.), whose work is not only the latest, but by far the most complete, memoir on the subject.

The final results of their inquiries may be summed up as follows:–

1. In the human foetus, the sylvian fissure is formed in the course of the third month of uterogestation. In this, and in the fourth month, the cerebral hemispheres are smooth and rounded (with the exception of the sylvian depression), and they project backwards far beyond the cerebellum.

2. The sulci, properly so called, begin to appear in the interval between the end of the fourth and the beginning of the sixth month of foetal life, but Ecker is careful to point out that, not only the time, but the order, of their appearance is subject to considerable individual variation. In no case, however, are either the frontal or the temporal sulci the earliest.

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