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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Johann von Fischer1   15 September 1876

Gotha.

Sept. 15ten. 1876.

Hochgeehrter Herr!

Ich erlaube mir Ihnen in deutscher Sprache zu antworten, da ich leider einsehe, dass obzwar ich Englisch fliessend lese, mir die Correspondenz manchmal, in speziellen Fragen mislingt.2

Ich bitte Sie mir zu verzeihen, dass ich nicht sofort geantwortet habe. Ich war jedoch, als Ihr Brief ankam, auf einer Jagd, für einige Tage verreist.

Ich danke Ihnen für die freundliche Anerkennung meiner Beobachtungen  Ich halte eine ziemliche Anzahl von Affen und anderer Säugethiere die noch wenig beobachtet sind. Sämmtliche Thiere werden sorgfältig beobachtet und über das Ergebniss ein Journal geführt.

Bis jest sind Artikel erschienen über: Cercoleptes caudivolvulus, Herpestes galera, ichneumon und ornatus, Paradoxurus leucomystax, Viverra indica, Felis viverrina und Arctomys monax.3 Die Andern erscheinen in kürzester Zeit.4 In allen diesen Artikeln habe ich die Mittel zum Ausdruck der Gemüthsbewegungen berücksichtigt und das Ergebniss publicirt. Sollten Sie geehrter Herr Zeit und Interesse an diesen Artickeln finden, so bin ich gern erböthig Ihnen dieselben einzusenden.5

Ich arbeite jetzt an einem Werk, in dem ich das Material aus dem Seelenleben der Affen besser classificiren kann.6

In Bezug auf Ihre Frage über die Affen, so ist mir aus meiner eignen Erfahrung bekannt dass hauptsächlich die Cynocephalus-Arten, also eigentliche Felsenaffen den Hintertheil zeigen. Ich besitze Cynoceph. sphinx Ill. mit blutrothen Hintertheil, C. hamadryas Desmarest, dessen Hintertheil mit sehr grossen blutrothen Gesässschwielen verziert ist, C. babuin Desm. mit (vielleicht weil er jung ist) lohfarbenen Hintertheil, C. mormon Ill. (Mandrill) mit blau und rothen, den Drill (C leucophaeus Desm.) mit lebhaft rothen und Cynopithecus niger Desm. mit rothen Hintertheil.7

Von diesen zeigen am häufigsten und mit der grössten Ostentation der Mandrill und der Drill, dann der C. hamadryas seinen Hintertheil, die andern thun es weit seltener. Ja, einige Individuen thun es gar nicht, weil sie noch zu scheu sind. Dagegen kaum 20Cent. hohe Mandrills und Drills von denen ich früher 5 Stück besass, bemühten sich, trotz vollständiger Wildheit, um die Wette ihre noch blassrothen Hintertheile zu zeigen.

Beim Mandrill habe ich es betont, dass er dieses Umdrehen mir gegenüber nur in der ersten Zeit seines Aufenthaltes that. Sobald aber eine fremde Person oder ein neuangekommener Affe sich zeigte, so wiederholte er es mehrmals. Auch muss man bei diesen Beobachtungen sehr vorsichtig sein, da ein junger Cynopithecus niger 2 Jahre nie mir den rothgefärbten Hintertheil gezeigt hatte, eines Tages jedoch und zwar unausgesetzt mir denselben präsentirte, was er auch jetzt noch thut, wenn ein Fremder kommt.

Andere Cynocephalus-Arten habe ich bisher noch nicht gehalten und auch nicht erlangen können. Sobald es mir gelingt, werde ich nicht versäumen an denselben weitere Beobachtungen anzustellen.

Von andern Affenarten kehren ihren Hintertheil, meiner Erfahrung nach, nur zwei: d.i. Macacus rhesus Desm. der einen rosenrothen Hintertheil hat, der beim Männchen etwas blasser ist und Macacus nemestrinus Geoffr. welcher trüb-fleischfarbene Gesässschwielen besitzt.8 Beide Arten zeigen wenn man sie freundlich anspricht dieselben dem Beobachter.

Weder bei M. cynomolgus Wagn., noch bei dem, dem Rhesus so nahe stehenden Cercocebus radiatus Geoffr. habe ich Dieses je bemerkt obzwar ich eine grosse Anzahl Exemplare gehalten habe und auch noch besitze.9

Von Cercopithecus habe ich nur 3 Arten gehalten und keine von ihnen hat mir oder einem von Ihresgleichen den Hintertheil gezeigt. Diese Arten sind: C. ruber Geoffr., sabaeus Erxl. und petaurista Erxl.10 Andere waren nicht zu erlangen.

Von den Simiae platyrrhinae11 zeigt, meines Wissens keiner das Hintertheil. Fasse ich das Gesagte zusammen, so muss ich Ihre Frage dahin beantworten: Meines Wissens besitzen alle Affen, die die Gewohnheit haben den Hintertheil gegenseitig oder dem Beobachter zu zeigen lebhaft gefärbte Gesässe.

Vielleicht haben andere Arten die ebenfalls gefärbte Gesässe besitzen und nicht die oben beschriebene Gewohnheit haben, dieselbe aus irgend welchem Grunde, abgelegt.

Hinsichtlich Ihrer Bemerkung über das Gesetz der Vererbung,12 so glaube ich, dass es sich im Allgemeinen auch bei andern Säugethieren bestätigen wird, vielleicht nicht ohne gewisse Ausnahmen, wenn man zu den Versuchen nur reine, in der Freiheit wild lebende, nicht domesticirte Thierarten mit ihren Farbenspielarten innerhalb der Species verwenden würde.

Bei Hausthieren jeder Art bin ich bei meinen Versuchen auf die capriciösesten Unregelmässigkeiten gestossen und vermuthe ich den Grund darin, dass unsere heutigen Hausthiere durch Domestication völlig von ihrem Urtypus abgewichen sind, ausserdem ist es bis manchen schwer zu definiren ob man sie streng als zu einer Art gehörig oder als gezüchtete Abkömmlinge mehrerer combinirter Arten betrachten muss.

Ich hatte daher damals absichtlich meine Versuche an Thieren gemacht die in der Freiheit in genau demselben, unveränderten Habitus vorkommen und von den man sicher weiss, dass die Farbenvarietäten zu einer Species gehören. Der ursprüngliche Zweck meiner Versuche war die Bedingung zu erfahren unter welchen sich gewisse Farben nicht vermischen und wann sie Zwischenfarben erzeugen.

Sollte sich, die, mir von einem Garten in Aussicht gestellte Stelle, eines Direktors am Zoologischen Garten realisiren, so werde ich meine Versuche an andern Thieren fortsetzen.13 Auf meinem Gute lässt sich leider diese Idee nicht ausführen.

Für die mir gütigst in Aussicht gestellte Erwähnung meiner Beobachtungen in der “Nature”14 sage ich im Voraus meinen aufrichtigsten Dank und verbleibe ich | mit tiefster Hochachtung | Ihr ergebener | Joh. von Fischer

CD annotations

6.5  babuin] ‘babouin’ ink
18.1 Sollte ... ausführen 18.3] ‘(Inheritance) ’blue crayon

CD note:15

*2d letter [red crayon]

Sept 18—1876

Will send articles [after del ‘me’] *on expression [interl] if I wish for them.

C. sphynx [above del ‘sphynx’] with blood red— rump [after del ‘ends.’]

— Hamadryas—with red *& callosities. [interl above del ‘& ridges’]

— babuin with glowing-coloured hinder end, very young [aroused] [interl]

— Mandrill [after del illeg] Blue & red rump

— Drill.— leocophæus—brilliant red

Cynopithecum [‘Cyno’ over dash] niger—with red hinder end.

Of them the mandrill & drill shew very [above del ‘with most’] often their rumps with greatest ostentation [‘their rumps’ del].— & next in order C. Hamadryas., the [testes] of Cynocephali seldomer, some [above del ‘& other’; after interl del ‘& some’] individuals seldomer.— & some not at all, because too shy. On other hand Mandrills & Drills while quite young showed their rumps

*2d L [red crayon]

Mandrill left [after del ‘did’] off *showing rump [below del ‘doing’] to Fischer, [altered from ‘F.’] but did so to strangers—more to [above del illeg], new apes frequently.— Young C. niger never did it to F. for 2 whole years, except 1 day whereas [above del ‘when’] he did it frequently, *& still does [above del ‘which he yet now does’] to strangers.

Of other apes [after del ‘species’], (according [after del ‘only’] to his experience only 2. species [interl] viz Mac. rhesus (with rosy rump) (*—which [above del illeg] in ♂ is somewhat paler [above del ‘paler’] than in ♀.) [square brackets in original] & in Mac. nemestrinus, (which has dingy [above del ‘dingy’] flesh-coloured callosities [below del ‘scabs’ and ‘[illeg]’] on the rump) turn hinder ends.— Not so in Macacus Cynomolgus [above del[Cynomolcolgus]’], & Cercocebus radiatus (which is closely allied to M. rhesus) *for he [interl] has never seen this habit *in these 2 species, though he has [interl above del ‘though he has’] kept many individuals.16

Of 3 sps of Cercopithecus none ever show rumps.—17(sp. named).— No platerhinae M. show hinder end.— All apes [above del ‘sp.’] which show rumps have it brightly coloured.

P.S Certainly I am inclined to take view that the naked [interl] part first shewed trace of colour & was then improved on & thus acquired habit, now instinctive of showing rump, & not vice versâ,— but it is indifferent for me which view is held.

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I.
CD’s letter has not been found, but was evidently a reply to the letter from Johann von Fischer, [before 15 September 1876].
All of Fischer’s articles appeared in Der Zoologische Garten. Zeitschrift für Beobachtung, Pflege und Zucht der Tiere (The zoological garden. A magazine for the observation, care, and breeding of animals). The articles mentioned are Fischer 1874a, 1875a–f. Cercoleptes caudivolvulus is a synonym of Potos flavus (the kinkajou). Herpestes galera is a synonym of Atilax paludinosus (the marsh mongoose, formerly known as the vansire); Herpestes ichneumon is the Egyptian mongoose or ichneumon; Herpestes ornatus is a synonym of Galerella sanguinea (the slender mongoose). Paradoxurus leucomystax is a synonym of Paguma larvata (the masked palm civet). Viverra indica is a synonym of Viverricula indica (the small Indian civet). Felis viverrina is a synonym of Prionailurus viverrinus (the fishing cat). Arctomys monax is a synonym of Marmota morax (the groundhog or woodchuck).
One more article by Fischer appeared in 1876 (Fischer 1876b), and two others early in 1877 (Fischer 1877a–b), all in Der Zoologische Garten.
None of Fischer’s articles have been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
Fischer’s article ‘Aus dem Leben eines Drill’s (Cynocephalus leucophaeus)’ (From the life of a drill (Cynocephalus leucophaeus); Fischer 1877b) focused on the expression of emotion in monkeys, particularly on their gestures.
In his earlier letter, Fischer had referred to Papio sphinx (see letter from Johann von Fischer, [before 15 September 1876] and n. 6). Evidently, he used Cynocephalus sphinx as a synonym, based on Illiger 1811, p. 69, and therefore probably refers to the Guinea baboon, now Papio papio. Cynocephalus hamadryas is a synonym of Papio hamadryas (the hamadryas baboon; C. babuin is a synonym of Papio cynocephalus (the yellow baboon); Cynocephalus mormon is a synonym of Mandrillus sphinx (the mandrill); Cynocephalus leucophaeus is a synonym of Mandrillus leucophaeus (the drill); Cynopithecus niger is a synonym of Macaca nigra (the Celebes crested macaque).
Macacus rhesus is a synonym of Macaca mulatta (the rhesus macaque); Macacus nemestrinus is a synonym of Macaca nemestrina (the southern pig-tailed macaque).
Macacus cynomolgus is a synonym of Macaca fascicularis (the long-tailed macaque). Cercocebus radiatus is a synonym of Macaca radiata (the bonnet macaque).
Cercopithecus ruber is a synonym of Erythrocebus patas (the patas monkey); Cercopithecus sabaeus is a synonym of Chlorocebus sabaeus (the green monkey); Cercopithecus petaurista is the lesser white-nosed monkey.
Simiae platyrrhinae are the New World (literally, ‘flat-nosed’) monkeys.
See the postscript to CD’s note; in his missing letter to Fischer, CD had probably suggested that the rump colour was acquired through sexual selection and retained as a sign of greeting. See also CD’s article ‘Sexual selection in relation to monkeys’, Nature, 2 November 1876, pp. 18–19.
Fischer became director of the zoological gardens in Düsseldorf in 1880 (Rieck et al. 2001).
See CD’s article ‘Sexual selection in relation to monkeys’, Nature, 2 November 1876, pp. 18–19.
CD’s note is a summary of the contents of the letter. CD added ‘2d letter’ in red crayon in the margin at the top of the note. He crossed through most of the note up to the postscript in ink.
CD added ‘Inheritance’ in blue crayon on the verso of the second page of the note.
CD added ‘*2d L’ in red crayon in the margin at the top of the third page of the note.

Bibliography

Illiger, Johann Karl Wilhelm. 1811. Prodromus systematis mammalium et avium. Berlin: C. Salfeld.

Translation

From Johann von Fischer1   15 September 1876

Gotha.

Sept. 15th 1876.

Most honoured Sir!

I take the liberty of replying in German, for unfortunately I realise that while I read English fluently, in correspondence about specialist topics I fail sometimes.2

I beg you to also forgive me for not replying immediately. However, I was away for a few days, on a hunt, when your letter arrived.

Thank you for the kind acknowledgement of my observations  I keep quite a number of monkeys and other mammals that have not been much observed. All the animals are watched carefully, and the results are recorded in a journal.

So far, articles have appeared on Cercoleptes caudivolvulus, Herpestes galera, ichneumon and ornatus, Paradoxurus leucomystax, Viverra indica, Felis viverrina and Arctomys monax.3 Others are about to come out shortly.4 For all of these articles I have paid regard to the animals’ means of expressing emotion and I have published my results. If you, honoured Sir, have the time and are interested in these articles, I am very willing to send them to you.5

I am now working on a piece in which I can better classify the material on the emotional life of monkeys.6

With respect to your question on monkeys, I know from my own experience that it is chiefly the Cynocephalus species, that is, rock apes proper, that show their rump. I have a Cynocephalus sphinx Ill. with blood-red rump, a C. hamadryas Desmarest whose rump is adorned with very large blood-red buttock calluses, a C. babuin Desm. with (possibly because he is still young) a tan rump, a C. mormon Ill. (mandrill) with a blue and red rump, the drill (C leucophaeus Desm.) with vivid red and Cynopithecus niger Desm. with a red rump.7

Of these the mandrill and the drill, then the C. hamadryas, show their rump most frequently and with the greatest ostentation, the others do so far more rarely. In fact, some individuals don’t do it at all, because they are still too shy. However, mandrills and drills barely 20 cm tall, of which I used to have 5, contended with one another in the effort to display their still pale red rumps although they were entirely wild.

Regarding the mandrill I emphasised that he turned his rump towards me only at the beginning of his stay with me. However, as soon as a strange person or a newly arrived monkey showed up, he repeated the act several times. Also, one must be very cautious with such observations, for a young Cynopithecus niger had never shown me its red rump in 2 years, but one day he suddenly and incessantly presented the same to me, which now he still does when a stranger appears.

Other species of Cynocephalus I have not kept so far, and I have not been able to get hold of any. As soon as I manage to, I will not fail to include them in my observations.

Of the other kinds of monkeys there are only two kinds, in my experience, that display their rump: i.e. Macacus rhesus Desm., which has a pinkish red rump, that of the male being somewhat paler, and Macacus nemestrinus Geoffr., which has dull flesh-coloured buttock calluses.8 Both species display them to the onlooker when spoken to in a friendly way.

Neither in M. cynomolgus Wagn., nor in Cercocebus radiatus Geoffr., which is so closely related to Rhesus, have I ever observed this behaviour although I kept and still keep a large number of them.9

Of Cercopithecus I have kept only 3 species and none of them have shown their rump to me or any of their fellows. These species are C. ruber Geoffr., sabaeus Erxl. and petaurista Erxl.10 Others were unobtainable.

Of the Simiae platyrrhinae11 none, to my knowledge, show their rump. To summarise all I said, I must answer your question as follows: To my knowledge all monkeys that are in the habit of showing their rump to one another or an onlooker have brightly coloured seats.

Perhaps other kinds which also possess coloured seats but not the habit just described, have given it up for some reason.

Regarding your comment on the law of heredity,12 I believe that it will be confirmed in general also for other mammals, though perhaps not without certain exceptions, if one used for the experiments only pure, undomesticated kinds that live untamed in the wild, with colour variations within the species.

With domesticated animals of all kinds I have encountered the most capricious irregularities in my experiments, and I suspect the reason for this is that our domesticated animals today have diverged entirely from their ancestral type due to domestication, on top of which in some it is difficult to establish whether they should be regarded as strictly of one type or as the improved descendants of several combined types.

For this reason I had, at that time, experimented deliberately with animals that occur in the wild in the exact same unchanged habitus and of whom it is known for certain that the colour variations belong to one species. The original goal of my experiments was to discover the conditions under which certain colours do not mix and when they produce intermediate colours.

Should the position as director of a zoological garden materialise, for which I am being considered, I will continue my experiments with other kinds of animals.13 On my estate it is unfortunately not possible to realise such a project.

For your kind promise to mention my observations in “Nature”14 I thank you sincerely in advance and remain | with the highest respect | Yours devoted | Joh. von Fischer.

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original German, see pp. 271–3.
CD’s letter has not been found, but was evidently a reply to the letter from Johann von Fischer, [before 15 September 1876].
All of Fischer’s articles appeared in Der Zoologische Garten. Zeitschrift für Beobachtung, Pflege und Zucht der Tiere (The zoological garden. A magazine for the observation, care, and breeding of animals). The articles mentioned are Fischer 1874a, 1875a–f. Cercoleptes caudivolvulus is a synonym of Potos flavus (the kinkajou). Herpestes galera is a synonym of Atilax paludinosus (the marsh mongoose, formerly known as the vansire); Herpestes ichneumon is the Egyptian mongoose or ichneumon; Herpestes ornatus is a synonym of Galerella sanguinea (the slender mongoose). Paradoxurus leucomystax is a synonym of Paguma larvata (the masked palm civet). Viverra indica is a synonym of Viverricula indica (the small Indian civet). Felis viverrina is a synonym of Prionailurus viverrinus (the fishing cat). Arctomys monax is a synonym of Marmota morax (the groundhog or woodchuck).
One more article by Fischer appeared in 1876 (Fischer 1876b), and two others early in 1877 (Fischer 1877a–b), all in Der Zoologische Garten.
None of Fischer’s articles have been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
Fischer’s article ‘Aus dem Leben eines Drill’s (Cynocephalus leucophaeus)’ (From the life of a drill (Cynocephalus leucophaeus); Fischer 1877b) focused on the expression of emotion in monkeys, particularly on their gestures.
In his earlier letter, Fischer had referred to Papio sphinx (see letter from Johann von Fischer, [before 15 September 1876] and n. 6). Evidently, he used Cynocephalus sphinx as a synonym, based on Illiger 1811, p. 69, and therefore probably refers to the Guinea baboon, now Papio papio. Cynocephalus hamadryas is a synonym of Papio hamadryas (the hamadryas baboon; C. babuin is a synonym of Papio cynocephalus (the yellow baboon); Cynocephalus mormon is a synonym of Mandrillus sphinx (the mandrill); Cynocephalus leucophaeus is a synonym of Mandrillus leucophaeus (the drill); Cynopithecus niger is a synonym of Macaca nigra (the Celebes crested macaque).
Macacus rhesus is a synonym of Macaca mulatta (the rhesus macaque); Macacus nemestrinus is a synonym of Macaca nemestrina (the southern pig-tailed macaque).
Macacus cynomolgus is a synonym of Macaca fascicularis (the long-tailed macaque). Cercocebus radiatus is a synonym of Macaca radiata (the bonnet macaque).
Cercopithecus ruber is a synonym of Erythrocebus patas (the patas monkey); Cercopithecus sabaeus is a synonym of Chlorocebus sabaeus (the green monkey); Cercopithecus petaurista is the lesser white-nosed monkey.
Simiae platyrrhinae are the New World (literally, ‘flat-nosed’) monkeys.
See the postscript to CD’s note; in his missing letter to Fischer, CD had probably suggested that the rump colour was acquired through sexual selection and retained as a sign of greeting. See also CD’s article ‘Sexual selection in relation to monkeys’, Nature, 2 November 1876, pp. 18–19.
Fischer became director of the zoological gardens in Düsseldorf in 1880 (Rieck et al. 2001).
See CD’s article ‘Sexual selection in relation to monkeys’, Nature, 2 November 1876, pp. 18–19.

Bibliography

Illiger, Johann Karl Wilhelm. 1811. Prodromus systematis mammalium et avium. Berlin: C. Salfeld.

Summary

Mentions observations on apes and other mammals. Describes habits of apes and monkeys in presenting hindquarters. Thinks species that present always have colourful hindquarters. Discusses possible exceptions to rule.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-10600
From
Johann von Fischer
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Gotha
Source of text
DAR 164: 119, 119a–c
Physical description
4pp (German) †, CD note 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10600,” accessed on 18 September 2020, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-10600.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24

letter