On the Epipubis in the Dog and Fox

Nature (February 1880)

[362] Royal Society, February 5.–"On the Epipubis in the Dog and Fox." By T. H. Huxley, Sec. R.S.

In 18711 I gave a brief description of a structure which I had observed in the dog, in the following terms:–

"In the myology of the dog, the insertion of the tendon of the external oblique muscle of the abdomen presents some interesting peculiarties. The outer and posterior fibres of this muscle end in a fascia, which is partly continued over the thigh as fascia lata, and partly forms an arch (Poupart's ligament) over the femoral vessels; by its inner end it is inserted into the outer side of a triangular fibro-cartilage, the broad base of which is attached to the anterior margin of the pubis, between its spine and the symphysis, while its apex lies in the abdominal parietes. The internal tendon of the external oblique unites with the tendon of the internal oblique to form the inner pillar of the abdominal ring, and is inserted into the inner side of the triangular fibro-cartilage. The pectineus is attached to the ventral face of the cartilage; the outer part of the tendon of the rectus into its dorsal face; but the chief part of that tendon is inserted into the pubis behind it. This fibro-carilage appears to represent the marsupial bone, or cartilage, of the Monotremes and Marsupials."

The only reference to this statement which I have met with is by Prof. Macalister, in his "Introduction to the Systemic Zoology and the Morphology of Vertebrate Animals" (1878), p. 265:–

"Prof. Huxley describes a fibro-cartilaginous 'marsupial' above the pubis, from whose anterior surface the pectineus arises. I have failed to satisfy myself of its existence as a constant structure in many dogs, in the common and Bengal foxes, in the dingo, jackal, Canis palipes, and wolf."

The wording of this passage does not make it quite clear whether the writer has not found the structure in any case, but does not mean to deny that it may occur occasionally in the various Canidæ he mentions; or whether he has found it occasionaly, but not constantly, in all or some of them.

Under these circumstances it may be desirable to publish the fact that, having recently dissected, for purposes of comparison, a male and female fox and a male and female dog, I have not had the slightly difficulty in demonstrating the existence of the structure which I described in 1871, in all four. And the only phrase which appears to require modification in that description is the use of the term fibro-cartilage. I do not remember whether, formerly, I submitted the structure to microscopie examination or not; but in the specimen lately examined, notwithstanding the firmness and density of the triangular plate, it contains no true cartilage cells, but is entirely composed of fibrous tissues which lie parallel with one another in the middle of the plate, while, at the thickened edges, they become closely interwoven.

A comparison of this triangular fibrous plate in the fox, with the "marsupial" bones of Phalangista vulpina, shows that the fibrous plate in the former animal exactly answers to the basal part of the "marsupial" bone in the latter. It may properly, therefore, be termed the epipubic ligament, and must be regarded as a structure of the same order as the rudimentary clavicle and the rudimentary hallux of the Canidæ; that is to say, as the remains of an organ which was fully developed in the ancestral forms of that group.

It is interesting to remark, in connection with the interpretation of the facts, that, in the existing Thylacinus, which presents so many curious points of resemblance to the dogs, the epipubic is not ossified. As, however, the Canidæ have certainly existed since the eocene epoch, there is no likelihood of the existence of any direct genetic connection between the dogs and the Thylacines. The existing carnivorous Marsupialia have evidently all proceeded from ancestral forms, characterised by the possession of a thumb-like hallux, a peculiarity whcih is presented neither by the dogs, when they possess a hallux, nor by any other carnivora with pentadactyle hind feet. Moreover, the early birth of the young and the development of a marsupium in the female, are evidences of the departure of the existing Marsupialia from the direct line by which the Mammals have advanced from the ornithodelphous type. That the ancestors of all mammals possessed body or cartilaginous epipubes is, I think, highly probable, but it does not follow that they had the marsupial method of bearing and nourishing their young.

1 "Manual of the Anatomy of Vertebrated Animals," p. 417.


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University