Lives of Eminent Zoologists, from Aristotle to Linnus

Page 54 of 79

The order Primates contains four genera:—

1. Homo, Man, of which (strange to say) he makes two species, viz. Homo Sapiens, including all the descendants of Adam, and Homo Troglodytes, the orang-outang! The varieties of the human race are the American, the European, the Asiatic, the African or Negro, and those called monstrous, such as the Patagonians, characterized by their great size, the flat-headed Indians of Canada, &c. His description of the human figure is amusing; and as it may afford an idea of his mode of viewing objects, we shall translate it in part:—

"The Body erect, bare, sprinkled over with a few distant hairs, and about six feet high. The Head inversely egg-shaped: scalp covered with longer hairs: the fore part obtuse, crown very obtuse, hind-head bulging. The Face bare: Forehead flattish, square, compressed at the temples, ascending at the corners among the hair. Eyebrows somewhat prominent,[Pg 275] with hairs closely set and directed outwards, separated by the flattish glabella. Upper eyelid moveable, lower fixed, both pectinated with projecting somewhat recurved hairs. Eyes round: pupil round, without nictitant membrane. Cheeks bulging, softish, coloured, their lower part somewhat compressed, the buccal portion looser. Nose prominent, shorter than the lip, compressed, higher and more bulging at the tip; nostrils ovate, hairy within, with a thickish margin. Upper lip nearly perpendicular, grooved in the middle; lower lip nearly erect, more prominent. Chin protruded, obtuse, bulging. Mouth in the male bearded with bristles, which on the chin especially form a bundle. Fore teeth in both jaws sharp edged, erect, parallel, close; canine teeth solitary, a little longer, close to the rest on both sides; grinders five, bluntish. Ears lateral; auricles roundish-semilunar, pressed in some measure towards the head, bare, vaulted above the margin; bulging and soft below." He then proceeds to state more particularly, that there is no tail, and that the thumb is shorter and thicker than the fingers. Man, therefore, differs from other animals, as he says, in having the body erect and bare, although the head and eyebrows are covered with hair, two pectoral mammæ, a brain larger than that of any other creature, a uvula, the face bare and parallel to the abdomen, the nose prominent and compressed, the chin projecting, no tail, feet resting on the heels, the males bearded on the chin, the females smooth.

As to the orang-outang, which forms his second species of man, he might have known that having four hands, and being incapable of carrying[Pg 276] its body erect, it had no right to stand beside the lord of the creation.

The second genus, Simia, includes the baboons and monkeys, of which, with and without tails, he enumerates thirty-three species.

3. Lemur, the macaucos: 5 species.

4. Vespertilio, the bats: 6 species.

These are the Nobles of the animal kingdom: men, monkeys, lemurs, and bats. There could hardly be a more unnatural association; but all artificial systems, founded upon the consideration of a single organ or set of organs, are chargeable with similar absurdities.

The second order, Bruta, is composed of the following genera:—

5. Elephas, the elephant, of which there is only one species.

6. Trichechus, the walrus: 2 species, the morse and manati.

7. Bradypus, the sloth: 2 species.

8. Myrmecophaga, the anteater: 4 species.

9. Manis: 2 species.

10. Dasypus, the armadillo: 6 species.

The third order, Feræ, or Beasts of Prey:—

11. Phoca, the seal: 3 species.

12. Canis, the dog, wolf, hyena, fox, jackal, &c.: 9 species.

13. Felis, the cat kind, including the lion, the tiger, &c.: 7 species.

14. Viverra, the civet: 6 species.

15. Mustela, the martin, including otters, weasels, ermines, polecats, &c.: 11 species.

16. Ursus, the bear: 4 species.[Pg 277]

17. Didelphis, the opossum: 5 species.

18. Talpa, the mole: 2 species.

19. Sorex, the shrew: 5 species.

20. Erinaceus, the hedgehog: 3 species.

The fourth order, Glires, Gnawing Animals:—

21. Hystrix, the porcupine: 4 species.

22. Lepus, the hare: 4 species.

23. Castor, the beaver: 3 species.

24. Mus, rats and mice: 21 species.

25. Sciurus, the squirrel: 11 species.

26. Noctilio: 1 species.

The fifth order, Pecora, the Ruminating Animals:—

27. Camelus, the camel, dromedary, lama, and alpaca: 4 species.

28. Moschus, the musk: 3 species.

29. Cervus, the deer: 7 species.

30. Capra, the goat: 12 species.

31. Ovis, the sheep: 3 species.

32. Bos, the ox tribe: 6 species.

The sixth order, Belluæ, contains,—

33. Equus, the horse, ass, and zebra: 3 species.

34. Hippopotamus: 1 species.

35. Sus, the hog tribe: 5 species.

36. Rhinoceros: 1 species.

The seventh order, Cete, the Whales, consists of four genera:—

37. Monodon, the narwhal, or sea-unicorn: 1 species.

38. Balæna, the whale, properly so called: 4 species.

39. Physeter, the cachalot: 4 species.

40. Delphinus, the dolphin: 3 species.

[Pg 278]

Including a few additional species mentioned in the appendix to the third volume, and the Mantissa of 1771, the number of Mammalia known to Linnæus was about 230. At the present day, more than 1000 species are described.

The second class, that of Birds, is divided by him into six orders, the essential characters of which are derived from the bill and feet, as follows:—

I. Accipitres: Birds of Prey. The bill more or less curved, the upper mandible dilated or armed with a tooth-like process near the tip; the feet short, robust, with acute hooked claws.

II. Picæ. The bill cultriform, with the back convex; the feet short, rather strong.

III. Anseres: Web-footed Birds. The bill smooth, covered with epidermis, enlarged at the tip; the toes united by a web, the legs compressed and short.

IV. Grallæ: Waders. The bill somewhat cylindrical; the feet long, bare above the knee, and formed for wading.

V. Gallinæ: Gallinaceous Birds. Bill convex, the upper mandible arched over the lower, the nostrils arched with a cartilaginous membrane. Feet with the toes separated, and rough beneath.

VI. Passeres: Small Birds. Bill conical, sharp pointed; feet slender, the toes separated.

It may here be remarked, that this arrangement is liable to many objections, and especially because the characters given to the orders are totally inapplicable to many species contained in them. Thus, the vultures, which belong to the first order, have no projecting processes on the upper mandible; the parrots, which are referred to the second, have the bill hooked, not cultriform, and bear no resemblance to the other species;[Pg 279] among the Anseres, which are characterized as having the bill smooth, covered with epidermis, and enlarged at the tip, are the gannet with a bare pointed bill, the divers, the terns, and the gulls, with bills not at all answering to the description given; among the Grallæ with a cylindrical bill, are the ostrich with a short depressed one, the boatbill with one resembling a boat, the spoonbill, the heron, the flamingo, and others, whose bills differ from each other as much as from that of the snipes and curlews; the character given to the bill of the Gallinæ agrees with that of many Passeres; and, lastly, the wagtail, the swallow, the tit, the robin, and a multitude of other small birds, have bills extremely unlike those of the goldfinch, bunting, and crossbill, which are referred to the same order. We mention these circumstances, not for the purpose of detracting from the merit of Linnæus, but simply because we are persuaded that many of his generalizations are extremely incorrect, as are in many respects those of all his predecessors, and even of the ablest philosophers of the present age. It is absurd to attempt to thrust the objects of nature into squares or circles, or enclosures of any other form. Every system that has been invented has failed in presenting even a tolerably accurate view of the discrepancies and accordances of the endlessly-diversified forms that have resulted from the creation of an Infinite Power.

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