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(Part 1)


(A) The Ape - Introduction

Introduction to Apes

APE, (aap, Dutch; Affe, German; Affo, Old German; apa, Swedish and Irish; epa, Welsh), a word of uncertain, and not improbably African origin, and by some supposed to have originated in an imitation of the animal's "chatter."

The zoological group denoted by the term "ape," when used in its widest sense, includes animals known by the familiar terms of "monkeys" and "baboons," as well as others bearing the less known names of "sapajous," "sakis," and "marmosets." In a more restricted sense the term "ape" is sometimes emphatically applied to those of the whole group which are most man-like in structure, namely, to the orang, the chimpanzee, the gorilla, and the gibbons.

Certain other animals, of very different structure, are generally associated in the same ordinal group with the apes. These other animal are the lemurs, or lemuroids; called also "half-apes," after their German designation of Halbaffen.

By Linnaeus these creatures, together with bats and man, were placed in his highest and first order, to which he gave the name "Primates," dividing its contents into the four genera, Homo, Simia, Lemur, and Vespertilio. The bats are now by universal consent removed from the order; and some eminent naturalists, notably Professor Alphonse Milne-Edwards, are disposed to remove from it the lemurs also; but in every case there can be no question but that the latter animals must at least rank as a sub-order, for which the term "Lemuroidea" has been proposed.

The question whether man should or should not be placed in the same zoological order with the apes, must be decided according to the principles classification adopted. If that classification be purely morphological, i.e. be determined by form and structure only, he cannot well be separated from them, at least by any naturalist who would also include the lemurs in such order.

The Linnean name "Primates" has been retained for the ape order, not only by naturalists who (like Professor Huxley) retain man within its limits; but also by others (e.g., the Professors Isidore Geoffrey St Hilaire and Gervais), who consider that he should be excluded from it. Cuvier, on the other hand, proposed for the ordinal group of apes and lemurs only the term Quadrumanes (or four-handed), giving to that order, within which he placed man alone, the antithetical term Bimanes. In this he has been followed by very many naturalists, and in England, amongst others, by Professor Owen; and perhaps, the majority of writers since Cuvier have bestowed on two distinct orders the names Quadrumana and Bimana respectively.

Priority of use determine our preference for the Linnean name "Primates," but this preference is reinforced by consideration derived from anatomy and physiology.

The whole of the apes, as indeed the whole of the half-apes also, differ from man in having the great toe, or (as it is called in anatomy) the hallux, so constructed as to be able to oppose the other toes (much as our thumb can oppose the fingers), instead of being parallel with the other toes, and exclusively adapted for supporting the body on the ground. The prehensile character of the hallux is fully maintained even in those forms which, like the baboons, are terrestrial rather than arboreal in their habits, and are quite quadrupedal in their mode of progression. It was this circumstance that led Cuvier to bestow the name Quadrumanes upon the apes and lemurs. Now, if we accept, with Professor Owen, a the definition of the word "foot," "an extremity in which the hallux forms the fulcrum in standing or walking," then man alone has a pair of feet. But, anatomically, the foot of apes (as well as that of half-apes) agrees far more with the foot of man than with his hand, and similarly the ape's hand resembles man's hand and differs from his foot. Even estimated physiologically, or according to use and employment, the hand throughout the whole order remains the special prehensile organ; while the predominant function of the foot, however prehensile it be, is constantly locomotive. Therefore the term Quadrumana is apt to be misleading , since, anatomically as well as physiologically, both apes and men have two hands and a pair of feet.

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