On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin - HTML preview
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Laws Of Variation
Effects of changed conditions -- Use and disuse, combined with natural selection; organs of flight and of vision -- Acclimatisation -- Correlated variation -- Compensation and economy of growth -- False correlations -- Multiple, rudimentary, and lowly organised structures variable -- Parts developed in an unusual manner are highly variable: specific characters more variable than generic: secondary sexual characters variable -- Species of the same genus vary in an analogous manner -- Reversions to long-lost characters -- Summary.
I have hitherto sometimes spoken as if the variations--so common and multiform with organic beings under domestication, and in a lesser degree with those under nature--were due to chance. This, of course is a wholly incorrect expression, but it serves to acknowledge plainly our ignorance of the cause of each particular variation. Some authors believe it to be as much the function of the reproductive system to produce individual differences, or slight deviations of structure, as to make the child like its parents. But the fact of variations and monstrosities occurring much more frequently under domestication than under nature, and the greater variability of species having wide ranges than of those with restricted ranges, lead to the conclusion that variability is generally related to the conditions of life to which each species has been exposed during several successive generations. In the first chapter I attempted to show that changed conditions act in two ways, directly on the whole organisation or on certain parts alone, and indirectly through the reproductive system. In all cases there are two factors, the nature of the organism, which is much the most important of the two, and the nature of the conditions. The direct action of changed conditions leads to definite or indefinite results. In the latter case the organisation seems to become plastic, and we have much fluctuating variability. In the former case the nature of the organism is such that it yields readily, when subjected to certain conditions, and all, or nearly all, the individuals become modified in the same way.
It is very difficult to decide how far changed conditions, such as of climate, food, etc., have acted in a definite manner. There is reason to believe that in the course of time the effects have been greater than can be proved by clear evidence. But we may safely conclude that the innumerable complex co-adaptations of structure, which we see throughout nature between various organic beings, cannot be attributed simply to such action. In the following cases the conditions seem to have produced some slight definite effect: E. Forbes asserts that shells at their southern limit, and when living in shallow water, are more brightly coloured than those of the same species from further north or from a greater depth; but this certainly does not always hold good. Mr. Gould believes that birds of the same species are more brightly coloured under a clear atmosphere, than when living near the coast or on islands; and Wollaston is convinced that residence near the sea affects the colours of insects. Moquin-Tandon gives a list of plants which, when growing near the sea-shore, have their leaves in some degree fleshy, though not elsewhere fleshy. These slightly varying organisms are interesting in as far as they present characters analogous to those possessed by the species which are confined to similar conditions.
When a variation is of the slightest use to any being, we cannot tell how much to attribute to the accumulative action of natural selection, and how much to the definite action of the conditions of life. Thus, it is well known to furriers that animals of the same species have thicker and better fur the further north they live; but who can tell how much of this difference may be due to the warmest-clad individuals having been favoured and preserved during many generations, and how much to the action of the severe climate? For it would appear that climate has some direct action on the hair of our domestic quadrupeds.
Instances could be given of similar varieties being produced from the same species under external conditions of life as different as can well be conceived; and, on the other hand, of dissimilar varieties being produced under apparently the same external conditions. Again, innumerable instances are known to every naturalist, of species keeping true, or not varying at all, although living under the most opposite climates. Such considerations as these incline me to lay less weight on the direct action of the surrounding conditions, than on a tendency to vary, due to causes of which we are quite ignorant.
In one sense the conditions of life may be said, not only to cause variability, either directly or indirectly, but likewise to include natural selection, for the conditions determine whether this or that variety shall survive. But when man is the selecting agent, we clearly see that the two elements of change are distinct; variability is in some manner excited, but it is the will of man which accumulates the variations in certain direction; and it is this latter agency which answers to the survival of the fittest under nature.EFFECTS OF THE INCREASED USE AND DISUSE OF PARTS, AS CONTROLLED BY NATURAL SELECTION.
From the facts alluded to in the first chapter, I think there can be no doubt that use in our domestic animals has strengthened and enlarged certain parts, and disuse diminished them; and that such modifications are inherited. Under free nature we have no standard of comparison by which to judge of the effects of long-continued use or disuse, for we know not the parent-forms; but many animals possess structures which can be best explained by the effects of disuse. As Professor Owen has remarked, there is no greater anomaly in nature than a bird that cannot fly; yet there are several in this state. The logger-headed duck of South America can only flap along the surface of the water, and has its wings in nearly the same condition as the domestic Aylesbury duck: it is a remarkable fact that the young birds, according to Mr. Cunningham, can fly, while the adults have lost this power. As the larger ground-feeding birds seldom take flight except to escape danger, it is probable that the nearly wingless condition of several birds, now inhabiting or which lately inhabited several oceanic islands, tenanted by no beasts of prey, has been caused by disuse. The ostrich indeed inhabits continents, and is exposed to danger from which it cannot escape by flight, but it can defend itself, by kicking its enemies, as efficiently as many quadrupeds. We may believe that the progenitor of the ostrich genus had habits like those of the bustard, and that, as the size and weight of its body were increased during successive generations, its legs were used more and its wings less, until they became incapable of flight.
Kirby has remarked (and I have observed the same fact) that the anterior tarsi, or feet, of many male dung-feeding beetles are often broken off; he examined seventeen specimens in his own collection, and not one had even a relic left. In the Onites apelles the tarsi are so habitually lost that the insect has been described as not having them. In some other genera they are present, but in a rudimentary condition. In the Ateuchus or sacred beetle of the Egyptians, they are totally deficient. The evidence that accidental mutilations can be inherited is at present not decisive; but the remarkable cases observed by BrownSequard in guinea-pigs, of the inherited effects of operations, should make us cautious in denying this tendency. Hence, it will perhaps be safest to look at the entire absence of the anterior tarsi in Ateuchus, and their rudimentary condition in some other genera, not as cases of inherited mutilations, but as due to the effects of long-continued disuse; for as many dung-feeding beetles are generally found with their tarsi lost, this must happen early in life; therefore the tarsi cannot be of much importance or be much used by these insects.
In some cases we might easily put down to disuse modifications of structure which are wholly, or mainly due to natural selection. Mr. Wollaston has discovered the remarkable fact that 200 beetles, out of the 550 species (but more are now known) inhabiting Madeira, are so far deficient in wings that they cannot fly; and that, of the twenty-nine endemic genera, no less than twenty-three have all their species in this condition! Several facts, namely, that beetles in many parts of the world are very frequently blown to sea and perish; that the beetles in Madeira, as observed by Mr. Wollaston, lie much concealed, until the wind lulls and the sun shines; that the proportion of wingless beetles is larger on the exposed Desertas than in Madeira itself; and especially the extraordinary fact, so strongly insisted on by Mr. Wollaston, that certain large groups of beetles, elsewhere excessively numerous, which absolutely require the use of their wings, are here almost entirely absent. These several considerations make me believe that the wingless condition of so many Madeira beetles is mainly due to the action of natural selection, combined probably with disuse. For during many successive generations each individual beetle which flew least, either from its wings having been ever so little less perfectly developed or from indolent habit, will have had the best chance of surviving from not being blown out to sea; and, on the other hand, those beetles which most readily took to flight would oftenest have been blown to sea, and thus destroyed.
The insects in Madeira which are not ground-feeders, and which, as certain flowerfeeding coleoptera and lepidoptera, must habitually use their wings to gain their subsistence, have, as Mr. Wollaston suspects, their wings not at all reduced, but even enlarged. This is quite compatible with the action of natural selection. For when a new insect first arrived on the island, the tendency of natural selection to enlarge or to reduce the wings, would depend on whether a greater number of individuals were saved by successfully battling with the winds, or by giving up the attempt and rarely or never flying. As with mariners shipwrecked near a coast, it would have been better for the good swimmers if they had been able to swim still further, whereas it would have been better for the bad swimmers if they had not been able to swim at all and had stuck to the wreck.
The eyes of moles and of some burrowing rodents are rudimentary in size, and in some cases are quite covered by skin and fur. This state of the eyes is probably due to gradual reduction from disuse, but aided perhaps by natural selection. In South America, a burrowing rodent, the tuco-tuco, or Ctenomys, is even more subterranean in its habits than the mole; and I was assured by a Spaniard, who had often caught them, that they were frequently blind. One which I kept alive was certainly in this condition, the cause, as appeared on dissection, having been inflammation of the nictitating membrane. As frequent inflammation of the eyes must be injurious to any animal, and as eyes are certainly not necessary to animals having subterranean habits, a reduction in their size, with the adhesion of the eyelids and growth of fur over them, might in such case be an advantage; and if so, natural selection would aid the effects of disuse.
It is well known that several animals, belonging to the most different classes, which inhabit the caves of Carniola and Kentucky, are blind. In some of the crabs the foot-stalk for the eye remains, though the eye is gone; the stand for the telescope is there, though the telescope with its glasses has been lost. As it is difficult to imagine that eyes, though useless, could be in any way injurious to animals living in darkness, their loss may be attributed to disuse. In one of the blind animals, namely, the cave-rat (Neotoma), two of which were captured by Professor Silliman at above half a mile distance from the mouth of the cave, and therefore not in the profoundest depths, the eyes were lustrous and of large size; and these animals, as I am informed by Professor Silliman, after having been exposed for about a month to a graduated light, acquired a dim perception of objects.
It is difficult to imagine conditions of life more similar than deep limestone caverns under a nearly similar climate; so that, in accordance with the old view of the blind animals having been separately created for the American and European caverns, very close similarity in their organisation and affinities might have been expected. This is certainly not the case if we look at the two whole faunas; with respect to the insects alone, Schiodte has remarked: "We are accordingly prevented from considering the entire phenomenon in any other light than something purely local, and the similarity which is exhibited in a few forms between the Mammoth Cave (in Kentucky) and the caves in Carniola, otherwise than as a very plain expression of that analogy which subsists generally between the fauna of Europe and of North America." On my view we must suppose that American animals, having in most cases ordinary powers of vision, slowly migrated by successive generations from the outer world into the deeper and deeper recesses of the Kentucky caves, as did European animals into the caves of Europe. We have some evidence of this gradation of habit; for, as Schiodte remarks: "We accordingly look upon the subterranean faunas as small ramifications which have penetrated into the earth from the geographically limited faunas of the adjacent tracts, and which, as they extended themselves into darkness, have been accommodated to surrounding circumstances. Animals not far remote from ordinary forms, prepare the transition from light to darkness. Next follow those that are constructed for twilight; and, last of all, those destined for total darkness, and whose formation is quite peculiar." These remarks of Schiodte's it should be understood, apply not to the same, but to distinct species. By the time that an animal had reached, after numberless generations, the deepest recesses, disuse will on this view have more or less perfectly obliterated its eyes, and natural selection will often have effected other changes, such as an increase in the length of the antennae or palpi, as a compensation for blindness. Notwithstanding such modifications, we might expect still to see in the cave-animals of America, affinities to the other inhabitants of that continent, and in those of Europe to the inhabitants of the European continent. And this is the case with some of the American cave-animals, as I hear from Professor Dana; and some of the European cave-insects are very closely allied to those of the surrounding country. It would be difficult to give any rational explanation of the affinities of the blind cave-animals to the other inhabitants of the two continents on the ordinary view of their independent creation. That several of the inhabitants of the caves of the Old and New Worlds should be closely related, we might expect from the wellknown relationship of most of their other productions. As a blind species of Bathyscia is found in abundance on shady rocks far from caves, the loss of vision in the cave species of this one genus has probably had no relation to its dark habitation; for it is natural that an insect already deprived of vision should readily become adapted to dark caverns. Another blind genus (Anophthalmus) offers this remarkable peculiarity, that the species, as Mr. Murray observes, have not as yet been found anywhere except in caves; yet those which inhabit the several caves of Europe and America are distinct; but it is possible that the progenitors of these several species, while they were furnished with eyes, may formerly have ranged over both continents, and then have become extinct, excepting in their present secluded abodes. Far from feeling surprise that some of the cave-animals should be very anomalous, as Agassiz has remarked in regard to the blind fish, the Amblyopsis, and as is the case with the blind Proteus, with reference to the reptiles of Europe, I am only surprised that more wrecks of ancient life have not been preserved, owing to the less severe competition to which the scanty inhabitants of these dark abodes will have been exposed.ACCLIMATISATION.
Habit is hereditary with plants, as in the period of flowering, in the time of sleep, in the amount of rain requisite for seeds to germinate, etc., and this leads me to say a few words on acclimatisation. As it is extremely common for distinct species belonging to the same genus to inhabit hot and cold countries, if it be true that all the species of the same genus are descended from a single parent-form, acclimatisation must be readily effected during a long course of descent. It is notorious that each species is adapted to the climate of its own home: species from an arctic or even from a temperate region cannot endure a tropical climate, or conversely. So again, many succulent plants cannot endure a damp climate. But the degree of adaptation of species to the climates under which they live is often overrated. We may infer this from our frequent inability to predict whether or not an imported plant will endure our climate, and from the number of plants and animals brought from different countries which are here perfectly healthy. We have reason to believe that species in a state of nature are closely limited in their ranges by the competition of other organic beings quite as much as, or more than, by adaptation to particular climates. But whether or not this adaptation is in most cases very close, we have evidence with some few plants, of their becoming, to a certain extent, naturally habituated to different temperatures; that is, they become acclimatised: thus the pines and rhododendrons, raised from seed collected by Dr. Hooker from the same species growing at different heights on the Himalayas, were found to possess in this country different constitutional powers of resisting cold. Mr. Thwaites informs me that he has observed similar facts in Ceylon; analogous observations have been made by Mr. H.C. Watson on European species of plants brought from the Azores to England; and I could give other cases. In regard to animals, several authentic instances could be adduced of species having largely extended, within historical times, their range from warmer to colder latitudes, and conversely; but we do not positively know that these animals were strictly adapted to their native climate, though in all ordinary cases we assume such to be the case; nor do we know that they have subsequently become specially acclimatised to their new homes, so as to be better fitted for them than they were at first.
As we may infer that our domestic animals were originally chosen by uncivilised man because they were useful, and because they bred readily under confinement, and not because they were subsequently found capable of far-extended transportation, the common and extraordinary capacity in our domestic animals of not only withstanding the most different climates, but of being perfectly fertile (a far severer test) under them, may be used as an argument that a large proportion of other animals now in a state of nature could easily be brought to bear widely different climates. We must not, however, push the foregoing argument too far, on account of the probable origin of some of our domestic animals from several wild stocks: the blood, for instance, of a tropical and arctic wolf may perhaps be mingled in our domestic breeds. The rat and mouse cannot be considered as domestic animals, but they have been transported by man to many parts of the world, and now have a far wider range than any other rodent; for they live under the cold climate of Faroe in the north and of the Falklands in the south, and on many an island in the torrid zones. Hence adaptation to any special climate may be looked at as a quality readily grafted on an innate wide flexibility of constitution, common to most animals. On this view, the capacity of enduring the most different climates by man himself and by his domestic animals, and the fact of the extinct elephant and rhinoceros having formerly endured a glacial climate, whereas the living species are now all tropical or sub-tropical in their habits, ought not to be looked at as anomalies, but as examples of a very common flexibility of constitution, brought, under peculiar circumstances, into action.
How much of the acclimatisation of species to any peculiar climate is due to mere habit, and how much to the natural selection of varieties having different innate constitutions, and how much to both means combined, is an obscure question. That habit or custom has some influence, I must believe, both from analogy and from the incessant advice given in agricultural works, even in the ancient Encyclopaedias of China, to be very cautious in transporting animals from one district to another. And as it is not likely that man should have succeeded in selecting so many breeds and sub-breeds with constitutions specially fitted for their own districts, the result must, I think, be due to habit. On the other hand, natural selection would inevitably tend to preserve those individuals which were born with constitutions best adapted to any country which they inhabited. In treatises on many kinds of cultivated plants, certain varieties are said to withstand certain climates better than others; this is strikingly shown in works on fruit-trees published in the United States, in which certain varieties are habitually recommended for the northern and others for the southern states; and as most of these varieties are of recent origin, they cannot owe their constitutional differences to habit. The case of the Jerusalem artichoke, which is never propagated in England by seed, and of which, consequently, new varieties have not been produced, has even been advanced, as proving that acclimatisation cannot be effected, for it is now as tender as ever it was! The case, also, of the kidney-bean has been often cited for a similar purpose, and with much greater weight; but until some one will sow, during a score of generations, his kidney-beans so early that a very large proportion are destroyed by frost, and then collect seed from the few survivors, with care to prevent accidental crosses, and then again get seed from these seedlings, with the same precautions, the experiment cannot be said to have been even tried. Nor let it be supposed that differences in the constitution of seedling kidney-beans never appear, for an account has been published how much more hardy some seedlings are than others; and of this fact I have myself observed striking instances.
On the whole, we may conclude that habit, or use and disuse, have, in some cases, played a considerable part in the modification of the constitution and structure; but that the effects have often been largely combined with, and sometimes overmastered by, the natural selection of innate variations.CORRELATED VARIATION.
I mean by this expression that the whole organisation is so tied together, during its growth and development, that when slight variations in any one part occur and are accumulated through natural selection, other parts become modified. This is a very important subject, most imperfectly understood, and no doubt wholly different classes of facts may be here easily confounded together. We shall presently see that simple inheritance often gives the false appearance of correlation. One of the most obvious real cases is, that variations of structure arising in the young or larvae naturally tend to affect the structure of the mature animal. The several parts which are homologous, and which, at an early embryonic period, are identical in structure, and which are necessarily exposed to similar conditions, seem eminently liable to vary in a like manner: we see this in the right and left sides of the body varying in the same manner; in the front and hind legs, and even in the jaws and limbs, varying together, for the lower jaw is believed by some anatomists to be homologous with the limbs. These tendencies, I do not doubt, may be mastered more or less completely by natural selection: thus a family of stags once existed with an antler only on one side; and if this had been of any great use to the breed, it might probably have been rendered permanent by natural selection.
Homologous parts, as has been remarked by some authors, tend to cohere; this is often seen in monstrous plants: and nothing is more common than the union of homologous parts in normal structures, as in the union of the petals into a tube. Hard parts seem to affect the form of adjoining soft parts; it is believed by some authors that with birds the diversity in the shape of the pelvis causes the remarkable diversity in the shape of the kidneys. Others believe that the shape of the pelvis in the human mother influences by pressure the shape of the head of the child. In snakes, according to Schlegel, the shape of the body and the manner of swallowing determine the position and form of several of the most important viscera.
The nature of the bond is frequently quite obscure. M. Is. Geoffroy St. Hilaire has forcibly remarked that certain malconformations frequently, and that others rarely, coexist without our being able to assign any reason. What can be more singular than the relation in cats between complete whiteness and blue eyes with deafness, or between the tortoise-shell colour and the female sex; or in pigeons, between their feathered feet and skin betwixt the outer toes, or between the presence of more or less down on the young pigeon when first hatched, with the future colour of its plumage; or, again, the relation between the hair and the teeth in the naked Turkish dog, though here no doubt homology comes into play? With respect to this latter case of correlation, I think it can hardly be accidental that the two orders of mammals which are most abnormal in their dermal covering, viz., Cetacea (whales) and Edentata (armadilloes, scaly ant-eaters, etc.), are likewise on the whole the most abnormal in their teeth, but there are so many exceptions to this rule, as Mr. Mivart has remarked, that it has little value.
I know of no case better adapted to show the importance of the laws of correlation and variation, independently of utility, and therefore of natural selection, than that of the difference between the outer and inner flowers in some Compositous and Umbelliferous plants. Everyone is familiar with the difference between the ray and central florets of, for instance, the daisy, and this difference is often accompanied with the partial or complete abortion of the reproductive organs. But in some of these plants the seeds also differ in shape and sculpture. These differences have sometimes been attributed to the pressure of the involucra on the florets, or to their mutual pressure, and the shape of the seeds in the ray-florets of some Compositae countenances this idea; but with the Umbelliferae it is by no means, as Dr. Hooker informs me, the species with the densest heads which most frequently differ in their inner and outer flowers. It might have been thought that the development of the ray-petals, by drawing nourishment from the reproductive organs causes their abortion; but this can hardly be the sole case, for in some Compositae the seeds of the outer and inner florets differ, without any difference in the corolla. Possibly these several differences may be connected with the different flow of nutriment towards the central and external flowers. We know, at least, that with irregular flowers those nearest to the axis are most subject to peloria, that is to become abnormally symmetrical. I may add, as an instance of this fact, and as a striking case of correlation, that in many pelargoniums the two upper petals in the central flower of the truss often lose their patches of darker colour; and when this occurs, the adherent nectary is quite aborted, the central flower thus becoming peloric or regular. When the colour is absent from only one of the two upper petals, the nectary is not quite aborted but is much shortened.
With respect to the development of the corolla, Sprengel's idea that the ray-florets serve to attract insects, whose agency is highly advantageous, or necessary for the fertilisation of these plants, is highly probable; and if so, natural selection may have come into play. But with respect to the seeds, it seems impossible that their differences in shape, which are not always correlated with any difference in the corolla, can be in any way beneficial; yet in the Umbelliferae these differences are of such apparent importance--the seeds being sometimes orthospermous in the exterior flowers and coelospermous in the central flowers--that the elder De Candolle founded his main divisions in the order on such characters. Hence modifications of structure, viewed by systematists as of high value, may be wholly due to the laws of variation and correlation, without being, as far as we can judge, of the slightest service to the species.
We may often falsely attribute to correlated variation structures which are common to whole groups of species, and which in truth are simply due to inheritance; for an ancient progenitor may have acquired through natural selection some one modification in structure, and, after thousands of generations, some other and independent modification; and these two modifications, having been transmitted to a whole group of descendants with diverse habits, would naturally be thought to be in some necessary manner correlated. Some other correlations are apparently due to the manner in which natural selection can alone act. For instance, Alph. De Candolle has remarked that winged seeds are never found in fruits which do not open; I should explain this rule by the impossibility of seeds gradually becoming winged through natural selection, unless the capsules were open; for in this case alone could the seeds, which were a little better adapted to be wafted by the wind, gain an advantage over others less well fitted for wide dispersal.COMPENSATION AND ECONOMY OF GROWTH.
The elder Geoffroy and Goethe propounded, at about the same time, their law of compensation or balancement of growth; or, as Goethe expressed it, "in order to spend on one side, nature is forced to economise on the other side." I think this holds true to a certain extent with our domestic productions: if nourishment flows to one part or organ in excess, it rarely flows, at least in excess, to another part; thus it is difficult to get a cow to give much milk and to fatten readily. The same varieties of the cabbage do not yield abundant and nutritious foliage and a copious supply of oil-bearing seeds. When the seeds in our fruits become atrophied, the fruit itself gains largely in size and quality. In our poultry, a large tuft of feathers on the head is generally accompanied by a diminished comb, and a large beard by diminished wattles. With species in a state of nature it can hardly be maintained that the law is of universal application; but many good observers, more especially botanists, believe in its truth. I will not, however, here give any instances, for I see hardly any way of distinguishing between the effects, on the one hand, of a part being largely developed through natural selection and another and adjoining part being reduced by the same process or by disuse, and, on the other hand, the actual withdrawal of nutriment from one part owing to the excess of growth in another and adjoining part.
I suspect, also, that some of the cases of compensation which have been advanced, and likewise some other facts, may be merged under a more general principle, namely, that natural selection is continually trying to economise in every part of the organisation. If under changed conditions of life a structure, before useful, becomes less useful, its diminution will be favoured, for it will profit the individual not to have its nutriment wasted in building up a useless structure. I can thus only understand a fact with which I was much struck when examining cirripedes, and of which many other instances could be given: namely, that when a cirripede is parasitic within another cirripede and is thus protected, it loses more or less completely its own shell or carapace. This is the case with the male Ibla, and in a truly extraordinary manner with the Proteolepas: for the carapace in all other cirripedes consists of the three highly important anterior segments of the head enormously developed, and furnished with great nerves and muscles; but in the parasitic and protected Proteolepas, the whole anterior part of the head is reduced to the merest rudiment attached to the bases of the prehensile antennae. Now the saving of a large and complex structure, when rendered superfluous, would be a decided advantage to each successive individual of the species; for in the struggle for life to which every animal is exposed, each would have a better chance of supporting itself, by less nutriment being wasted.
Thus, as I believe, natural selection will tend in the long run to reduce any part of the organisation, as soon as it becomes, through changed habits, superfluous, without by any means causing some other part to be largely developed in a corresponding degree. And conversely, that natural selection may perfectly well succeed in largely developing an organ without requiring as a necessary compensation the reduction of some adjoining part.MULTIPLE, RUDIMENTARY, AND LOWLY-ORGANISED STRUCTURES ARE VARIABLE.
It seems to be a rule, as remarked by Is. Geoffroy St. Hilaire, both with varieties and species, that when any part or organ is repeated many times in the same individual (as the vertebrae in snakes, and the stamens in polyandrous flowers) the number is variable; whereas the number of the same part or organ, when it occurs in lesser numbers, is constant. The same author as well as some botanists, have further remarked that multiple parts are extremely liable to vary in structure. As "vegetative repetition," to use Professor Owen's expression, is a sign of low organisation; the foregoing statements accord with the common opinion of naturalists, that beings which stand low in the scale of nature are more variable than those which are higher. I presume that lowness here means that the several parts of the organisation have been but little specialised for particular functions; and as long as the same part has to perform diversified work, we can perhaps see why it should remain variable, that is, why natural selection should not have preserved or rejected each little deviation of form so carefully as when the part has to serve for some one special purpose. In the same way that a knife which has to cut all sorts of things may be of almost any shape; whilst a tool for some particular purpose must be of some particular shape. Natural selection, it should never be forgotten, can act solely through and for the advantage of each being.
Rudimentary parts, as is generally admitted, are apt to be highly variable. We shall have to recur to this subject; and I will here only add that their variability seems to result from their uselessness, and consequently from natural selection having had no power to check deviations in their structure.
A PART DEVELOPED IN ANY SPECIES IN AN EXTRAORDINARY DEGREE OR MANNER, IN COMPARISON WITH THE SAME PART IN ALLIED SPECIES, TENDS TO BE HIGHLY VARIABLE.
Several years ago I was much struck by a remark to the above effect made by Mr. Waterhouse. Professor Owen, also, seems to have come to a nearly similar conclusion. It is hopeless to attempt to convince any one of the truth of the above proposition without giving the long array of facts which I have collected, and which cannot possibly be here introduced. I can only state my conviction that it is a rule of high generality. I am aware of several causes of error, but I hope that I have made due allowances for them. It should be understood that the rule by no means applies to any part, however unusually developed, unless it be unusually developed in one species or in a few species in comparison with the same part in many closely allied species. Thus, the wing of the bat is a most abnormal structure in the class of mammals; but the rule would not apply here, because the whole group of bats possesses wings; it would apply only if some one species had wings developed in a remarkable manner in comparison with the other species of the same genus. The rule applies very strongly in the case of secondary sexual characters, when displayed in any unusual manner. The term, secondary sexual characters, used by Hunter, relates to characters which are attached to one sex, but are not directly connected with the act of reproduction. The rule applies to males and females; but more rarely to females, as they seldom offer remarkable secondary sexual characters. The rule being so plainly applicable in the case of secondary sexual characters, may be due to the great variability of these characters, whether or not displayed in any unusual manner--of which fact I think there can be little doubt. But that our rule is not confined to secondary sexual characters is clearly shown in the case of hermaphrodite cirripedes; I particularly attended to Mr. Waterhouse's remark, whilst investigating this order, and I am fully convinced that the rule almost always holds good. I shall, in a future work, give a list of all the more remarkable cases. I will here give only one, as it illustrates the rule in its largest application. The opercular valves of sessile cirripedes (rock barnacles) are, in every sense of the word, very important structures, and they differ extremely little even in distinct genera; but in the several species of one genus, Pyrgoma, these valves present a marvellous amount of diversification; the homologous valves in the different species being sometimes wholly unlike in shape; and the amount of variation in the individuals of the same species is so great that it is no exaggeration to state that the varieties of the same species differ more from each other in the characters derived from these important organs, than do the species belonging to other distinct genera.
As with birds the individuals of the same species, inhabiting the same country, vary extremely little, I have particularly attended to them; and the rule certainly seems to hold good in this class. I cannot make out that it applies to plants, and this would have seriously shaken my belief in its truth, had not the great variability in plants made it particularly difficult to compare their relative degrees of variability.
When we see any part or organ developed in a remarkable degree or manner in a species, the fair presumption is that it is of high importance to that species: nevertheless it is in this case eminently liable to variation. Why should this be so? On the view that each species has been independently created, with all its parts as we now see them, I can see no explanation. But on the view that groups of species are descended from some other species, and have been modified through natural selection, I think we can obtain some light. First let me make some preliminary remarks. If, in our domestic animals, any part or the whole animal be neglected, and no selection be applied, that part (for instance, the comb in the Dorking fowl) or the whole breed will cease to have a uniform character: and the breed may be said to be degenerating. In rudimentary organs, and in those which have been but little specialised for any particular purpose, and perhaps in polymorphic groups, we see a nearly parallel case; for in such cases natural selection either has not or cannot come into full play, and thus the organisation is left in a fluctuating condition. But what here more particularly concerns us is, that those points in our domestic animals, which at the present time are undergoing rapid change by continued selection, are also eminently liable to variation. Look at the individuals of the same breed of the pigeon; and see what a prodigious amount of difference there is in the beak of tumblers, in the beak and wattle of carriers, in the carriage and tail of fantails, etc., these being the points now mainly attended to by English fanciers. Even in the same sub-breed, as in that of the short-faced tumbler, it is notoriously difficult to breed nearly perfect birds, many departing widely from the standard. There may truly be said to be a constant struggle going on between, on the one hand, the tendency to reversion to a less perfect state, as well as an innate tendency to new variations, and, on the other hand, the power of steady selection to keep the breed true. In the long run selection gains the day, and we do not expect to fail so completely as to breed a bird as coarse as a common tumbler pigeon from a good shortfaced strain. But as long as selection is rapidly going on, much variability in the parts undergoing modification may always be expected.
Now let us turn to nature. When a part has been developed in an extraordinary manner in any one species, compared with the other species of the same genus, we may conclude that this part has undergone an extraordinary amount of modification since the period when the several species branched off from the common progenitor of the genus. This period will seldom be remote in any extreme degree, as species rarely endure for more than one geological period. An extraordinary amount of modification implies an unusually large and long-continued amount of variability, which has continually been accumulated by natural selection for the benefit of the species. But as the variability of the extraordinarily developed part or organ has been so great and long-continued within a period not excessively remote, we might, as a general rule, still expect to find more variability in such parts than in other parts of the organisation which have remained for a much longer period nearly constant. And this, I am convinced, is the case. That the struggle between natural selection on the one hand, and the tendency to reversion and variability on the other hand, will in the course of time cease; and that the most abnormally developed organs may be made constant, I see no reason to doubt. Hence, when an organ, however abnormal it may be, has been transmitted in approximately the same condition to many modified descendants, as in the case of the wing of the bat, it must have existed, according to our theory, for an immense period in nearly the same state; and thus it has come not to be more variable than any other structure. It is only in those cases in which the modification has been comparatively recent and extraordinarily great that we ought to find the GENERATIVE VARIABILITY, as it may be called, still present in a high degree. For in this case the variability will seldom as yet have been fixed by the continued selection of the individuals varying in the required manner and degree, and by the continued rejection of those tending to revert to a former and less modified condition.SPECIFIC CHARACTERS MORE VARIABLE THAN GENERIC CHARACTERS.
The principle discussed under the last heading may be applied to our present subject. It is notorious that specific characters are more variable than generic. To explain by a simple example what is meant: if in a large genus of plants some species had blue flowers and some had red, the colour would be only a specific character, and no one would be surprised at one of the blue species varying into red, or conversely; but if all the species had blue flowers, the colour would become a generic character, and its variation would be a more unusual circumstance. I have chosen this example because the explanation which most naturalists would advance is not here applicable, namely, that specific characters are more variable than generic, because they are taken from parts of less physiological importance than those commonly used for classing genera. I believe this explanation is partly, yet only indirectly, true; I shall, however, have to return to this point in the chapter on Classification. It would be almost superfluous to adduce evidence in support of the statement, that ordinary specific characters are more variable than generic; but with respect to important characters, I have repeatedly noticed in works on natural history, that when an author remarks with surprise that some important organ or part, which is generally very constant throughout a large group of species, DIFFERS considerably in closely-allied species, it is often VARIABLE in the individuals of the same species. And this fact shows that a character, which is generally of generic value, when it sinks in value and becomes only of specific value, often becomes variable, though its physiological importance may remain the same. Something of the same kind applies to monstrosities: at least Is. Geoffroy St. Hilaire apparently entertains no doubt, that the more an organ normally differs in the different species of the same group, the more subject it is to anomalies in the individuals.
On the ordinary view of each species having been independently created, why should that part of the structure, which differs from the same part in other independently created species of the same genus, be more variable than those parts which are closely alike in the several species? I do not see that any explanation can be given. But on the view that species are only strongly marked and fixed varieties, we might expect often to find them still continuing to vary in those parts of their structure which have varied within a moderately recent period, and which have thus come to differ. Or to state the case in another manner: the points in which all the species of a genus resemble each other, and in which they differ from allied genera, are called generic characters; and these characters may be attributed to inheritance from a common progenitor, for it can rarely have happened that natural selection will have modified several distinct species, fitted to more or less widely different habits, in exactly the same manner: and as these so-called generic characters have been inherited from before the period when the several species first branched off from their common progenitor, and subsequently have not varied or come to differ in any degree, or only in a slight degree, it is not probable that they should vary at the present day. On the other hand, the points in which species differ from other species of the same genus are called specific characters; and as these specific characters have varied and come to differ since the period when the species branched off from a common progenitor, it is probable that they should still often be in some degree variable--at least more variable than those parts of the organisation which have for a very long period remained constant.SECONDARY SEXUAL CHARACTERS VARIABLE.
I think it will be admitted by naturalists, without my entering on details, that secondary sexual characters are highly variable. It will also be admitted that species of the same group differ from each other more widely in their secondary sexual characters, than in other parts of their organisation; compare, for instance, the amount of difference between the males of gallinaceous birds, in which secondary sexual characters are strongly displayed, with the amount of difference between the females. The cause of the original variability of these characters is not manifest; but we can see why they should not have been rendered as constant and uniform as others, for they are accumulated by sexual selection, which is less rigid in its action than ordinary selection, as it does not entail death, but only gives fewer offspring to the less favoured males. Whatever the cause may be of the variability of secondary sexual characters, as they are highly variable, sexual selection will have had a wide scope for action, and may thus have succeeded in giving to the species of the same group a greater amount of difference in these than in other respects.
It is a remarkable fact, that the secondary differences between the two sexes of the same species are generally displayed in the very same parts of the organisation in which the species of the same genus differ from each other. Of this fact I will give in illustration the first two instances which happen to stand on my list; and as the differences in these cases are of a very unusual nature, the relation can hardly be accidental. The same number of joints in the tarsi is a character common to very large groups of beetles, but in the Engidae, as Westwood has remarked, the number varies greatly and the number likewise differs in the two sexes of the same species. Again in the fossorial hymenoptera, the neuration of the wings is a character of the highest importance, because common to large groups; but in certain genera the neuration differs in the different species, and likewise in the two sexes of the same species. Sir J. Lubbock has recently remarked, that several minute crustaceans offer excellent illustrations of this law. "In Pontella, for instance, the sexual characters are afforded mainly by the anterior antennae and by the fifth pair of legs: the specific differences also are principally given by these organs." This relation has a clear meaning on my view: I look at all the species of the same genus as having as certainly descended from the same progenitor, as have the two sexes of any one species. Consequently, whatever part of the structure of the common progenitor, or of its early descendants, became variable; variations of this part would, it is highly probable, be taken advantage of by natural and sexual selection, in order to fit the several places in the economy of nature, and likewise to fit the two sexes of the same species to each other, or to fit the males to struggle with other males for the possession of the females.
Finally, then, I conclude that the greater variability of specific characters, or those which distinguish species from species, than of generic characters, or those which are possessed by all the species; that the frequent extreme variability of any part which is developed in a species in an extraordinary manner in comparison with the same part in its congeners; and the slight degree of variability in a part, however extraordinarily it may be developed, if it be common to a whole group of species; that the great variability of secondary sexual characters and their great difference in closely allied species; that secondary sexual and ordinary specific differences are generally displayed in the same parts of the organisation, are all principles closely connected together. All being mainly due to the species of the same group being the descendants of a common progenitor, from whom they have inherited much in common, to parts which have recently and largely varied being more likely still to go on varying than parts which have long been inherited and have not varied, to natural selection having more or less completely, according to the lapse of time, overmastered the tendency to reversion and to further variability, to sexual selection being less rigid than ordinary selection, and to variations in the same parts having been accumulated by natural and sexual selection, and thus having been adapted for secondary sexual, and for ordinary purposes.
DISTINCT SPECIES PRESENT ANALOGOUS VARIATIONS, SO THAT A VARIETY OF ONE SPECIES OFTEN ASSUMES A CHARACTER PROPER TO AN ALLIED SPECIES, OR REVERTS TO SOME OF THE CHARACTERS OF AN EARLY PROGENITOR.
These propositions will be most readily understood by looking to our domestic races. The most distinct breeds of the pigeon, in countries widely apart, present sub-varieties with reversed feathers on the head, and with feathers on the feet, characters not possessed by the aboriginal rock-pigeon; these then are analogous variations in two or more distinct races. The frequent presence of fourteen or even sixteen tail-feathers in the pouter may be considered as a variation representing the normal structure of another race, the fantail. I presume that no one will doubt that all such analogous variations are due to the several races of the pigeon having inherited from a common parent the same constitution and tendency to variation, when acted on by similar unknown influences. In the vegetable kingdom we have a case of analogous variation, in the enlarged stems, or as commonly called roots, of the Swedish turnip and ruta-baga, plants which several botanists rank as varieties produced by cultivation from a common parent: if this be not so, the case will then be one of analogous variation in two so-called distinct species; and to these a third may be added, namely, the common turnip. According to the ordinary view of each species having been independently created, we should have to attribute this similarity in the enlarged stems of these three plants, not to the vera causa of community of descent, and a consequent tendency to vary in a like manner, but to three separate yet closely related acts of creation. Many similar cases of analogous variation have been observed by Naudin in the great gourd family, and by various authors in our cereals. Similar cases occurring with insects under natural conditions have lately been discussed with much ability by Mr. Walsh, who has grouped them under his law of equable variability.
With pigeons, however, we have another case, namely, the occasional appearance in all the breeds, of slaty-blue birds with two black bars on the wings, white loins, a bar at the end of the tail, with the outer feathers externally edged near their bases with white. As all these marks are characteristic of the parent rock-pigeon, I presume that no one will doubt that this is a case of reversion, and not of a new yet analogous variation appearing in the several breeds. We may, I think, confidently come to this conclusion, because, as we have seen, these coloured marks are eminently liable to appear in the crossed offspring of two distinct and differently coloured breeds; and in this case there is nothing in the external conditions of life to cause the reappearance of the slaty-blue, with the several marks, beyond the influence of the mere act of crossing on the laws of inheritance.
No doubt it is a very surprising fact that characters should reappear after having been lost for many, probably for hundreds of generations. But when a breed has been crossed only once by some other breed, the offspring occasionally show for many generations a tendency to revert in character to the foreign breed--some say, for a dozen or even a score of generations. After twelve generations, the proportion of blood, to use a common expression, from one ancestor, is only 1 in 2048; and yet, as we see, it is generally believed that a tendency to reversion is retained by this remnant of foreign blood. In a breed which has not been crossed, but in which BOTH parents have lost some character which their progenitor possessed, the tendency, whether strong or weak, to reproduce the lost character might, as was formerly remarked, for all that we can see to the contrary, be transmitted for almost any number of generations. When a character which has been lost in a breed, reappears after a great number of generations, the most probable hypothesis is, not that one individual suddenly takes after an ancestor removed by some hundred generations, but that in each successive generation the character in question has been lying latent, and at last, under unknown favourable conditions, is developed. With the barb-pigeon, for instance, which very rarely produces a blue bird, it is probable that there is a latent tendency in each generation to produce blue plumage. The abstract improbability of such a tendency being transmitted through a vast number of generations, is not greater than that of quite useless or rudimentary organs being similarly transmitted. A mere tendency to produce a rudiment is indeed sometimes thus inherited.
As all the species of the same genus are supposed to be descended from a common progenitor, it might be expected that they would occasionally vary in an analogous manner; so that the varieties of two or more species would resemble each other, or that a variety of one species would resemble in certain characters another and distinct species, this other species being, according to our view, only a well-marked and permanent variety. But characters exclusively due to analogous variation would probably be of an unimportant nature, for the preservation of all functionally important characters will have been determined through natural selection, in accordance with the different habits of the species. It might further be expected that the species of the same genus would occasionally exhibit reversions to long-lost characters. As, however, we do not know the common ancestor of any natural group, we cannot distinguish between reversionary and analogous characters. If, for instance, we did not know that the parent rock-pigeon was not feather-footed or turn-crowned, we could not have told, whether such characters in our domestic breeds were reversions or only analogous variations; but we might have inferred that the blue colour was a case of reversion from the number of the markings, which are correlated with this tint, and which would not probably have all appeared together from simple variation. More especially we might have inferred this from the blue colour and the several marks so often appearing when differently coloured breeds are crossed. Hence, although under nature it must generally be left doubtful, what cases are reversions to formerly existing characters, and what are new but analogous variations, yet we ought, on our theory, sometimes to find the varying offspring of a species assuming characters which are already present in other members of the same group. And this undoubtedly is the case.
The difficulty in distinguishing variable species is largely due to the varieties mocking, as it were, other species of the same genus. A considerable catalogue, also, could be given of forms intermediate between two other forms, which themselves can only doubtfully be ranked as species; and this shows, unless all these closely allied forms be considered as independently created species, that they have in varying assumed some of the characters of the others. But the best evidence of analogous variations is afforded by parts or organs which are generally constant in character, but which occasionally vary so as to resemble, in some degree, the same part or organ in an allied species. I have collected a long list of such cases; but here, as before, I lie under the great disadvantage of not being able to give them. I can only repeat that such cases certainly occur, and seem to me very remarkable.
I will, however, give one curious and complex case, not indeed as affecting any important character, but from occurring in several species of the same genus, partly under domestication and partly under nature. It is a case almost certainly of reversion. The ass sometimes has very distinct transverse bars on its legs, like those on the legs of a zebra. It has been asserted that these are plainest in the foal, and from inquiries which I have made, I believe this to be true. The stripe on the shoulder is sometimes double, and is very variable in length and outline. A white ass, but NOT an albino, has been described without either spinal or shoulder stripe; and these stripes are sometimes very obscure, or actually quite lost, in dark-coloured asses. The koulan of Pallas is said to have been seen with a double shoulder-stripe. Mr. Blyth has seen a specimen of the hemionus with a distinct shoulder-stripe, though it properly has none; and I have been informed by Colonel Poole that foals of this species are generally striped on the legs and faintly on the shoulder. The quagga, though so plainly barred like a zebra over the body, is without bars on the legs; but Dr. Gray has figured one specimen with very distinct zebra-like bars on the hocks.
With respect to the horse, I have collected cases in England of the spinal stripe in horses of the most distinct breeds, and of ALL colours; transverse bars on the legs are not rare in duns, mouse-duns, and in one instance in a chestnut; a faint shoulder-stripe may sometimes be seen in duns, and I have seen a trace in a bay horse. My son made a careful examination and sketch for me of a dun Belgian cart-horse with a double stripe on each shoulder and with leg-stripes. I have myself seen a dun Devonshire pony, and a small dun Welsh pony has been carefully described to me, both with THREE parallel stripes on each shoulder.
In the northwest part of India the Kattywar breed of horses is so generally striped, that, as I hear from Colonel Poole, who examined this breed for the Indian Government, a horse without stripes is not considered as purely bred. The spine is always striped; the legs are generally barred; and the shoulder-stripe, which is sometimes double and sometimes treble, is common; the side of the face, moreover, is sometimes striped. The stripes are often plainest in the foal; and sometimes quite disappear in old horses. Colonel Poole has seen both gray and bay Kattywar horses striped when first foaled. I have also reason to suspect, from information given me by Mr. W.W. Edwards, that with the English racehorse the spinal stripe is much commoner in the foal than in the full-grown animal. I have myself recently bred a foal from a bay mare (offspring of a Turkoman horse and a Flemish mare) by a bay English race-horse. This foal, when a week old, was marked on its hinder quarters and on its forehead with numerous very narrow, dark, zebra-like bars, and its legs were feebly striped. All the stripes soon disappeared completely. Without here entering on further details I may state that I have collected cases of leg and shoulder stripes in horses of very different breeds in various countries from Britain to Eastern China; and from Norway in the north to the Malay Archipelago in the south. In all parts of the world these stripes occur far oftenest in duns and mouse-duns; by the term dun a large range of colour is included, from one between brown and black to a close approach to cream colour.
I am aware that Colonel Hamilton Smith, who has written on this subject, believes that the several breeds of the horse are descended from several aboriginal species, one of which, the dun, was striped; and that the above-described appearances are all due to ancient crosses with the dun stock. But this view may be safely rejected, for it is highly improbable that the heavy Belgian cart-horse, Welsh ponies, Norwegian cobs, the lanky Kattywar race, etc., inhabiting the most distant parts of the world, should have all have been crossed with one supposed aboriginal stock.
Now let us turn to the effects of crossing the several species of the horse genus. Rollin asserts that the common mule from the ass and horse is particularly apt to have bars on its legs; according to Mr. Gosse, in certain parts of the United States, about nine out of ten mules have striped legs. I once saw a mule with its legs so much striped that any one might have thought that it was a hybrid zebra; and Mr. W.C. Martin, in his excellent treatise on the horse, has given a figure of a similar mule. In four coloured drawings, which I have seen, of hybrids between the ass and zebra, the legs were much more plainly barred than the rest of the body; and in one of them there was a double shoulder-stripe. In Lord Morton's famous hybrid, from a chestnut mare and male quagga, the hybrid and even the pure offspring subsequently produced from the same mare by a black Arabian sire, were much more plainly barred across the legs than is even the pure quagga. Lastly, and this is another most remarkable case, a hybrid has been figured by Dr. Gray (and he informs me that he knows of a second case) from the ass and the hemionus; and this hybrid, though the ass only occasionally has stripes on his legs and the hemionus has none and has not even a shoulder-stripe, nevertheless had all four legs barred, and had three short shoulder-stripes, like those on the dun Devonshire and Welsh ponies, and even had some zebra-like stripes on the sides of its face. With respect to this last fact, I was so convinced that not even a stripe of colour appears from what is commonly called chance, that I was led solely from the occurrence of the face-stripes on this hybrid from the ass and hemionus to ask Colonel Poole whether such face-stripes ever occurred in the eminently striped Kattywar breed of horses, and was, as we have seen, answered in the affirmative.
What now are we to say to these several facts? We see several distinct species of the horse genus becoming, by simple variation, striped on the legs like a zebra, or striped on the shoulders like an ass. In the horse we see this tendency strong whenever a dun tint appears--a tint which approaches to that of the general colouring of the other species of the genus. The appearance of the stripes is not accompanied by any change of form, or by any other new character. We see this tendency to become striped most strongly displayed in hybrids from between several of the most distinct species. Now observe the case of the several breeds of pigeons: they are descended from a pigeon (including two or three subspecies or geographical races) of a bluish colour, with certain bars and other marks; and when any breed assumes by simple variation a bluish tint, these bars and other marks invariably reappear; but without any other change of form or character. When the oldest and truest breeds of various colours are crossed, we see a strong tendency for the blue tint and bars and marks to reappear in the mongrels. I have stated that the most probable hypothesis to account for the reappearance of very ancient characters, is--that there is a TENDENCY in the young of each successive generation to produce the long-lost character, and that this tendency, from unknown causes, sometimes prevails. And we have just seen that in several species of the horse genus the stripes are either plainer or appear more commonly in the young than in the old. Call the breeds of pigeons, some of which have bred true for centuries, species; and how exactly parallel is the case with that of the species of the horse genus! For myself, I venture confidently to look back thousands on thousands of generations, and I see an animal striped like a zebra, but perhaps otherwise very differently constructed, the common parent of our domestic horse (whether or not it be descended from one or more wild stocks) of the ass, the hemionus, quagga, and zebra.
He who believes that each equine species was independently created, will, I presume, assert that each species has been created with a tendency to vary, both under nature and under domestication, in this particular manner, so as often to become striped like the other species of the genus; and that each has been created with a strong tendency, when crossed with species inhabiting distant quarters of the world, to produce hybrids resembling in their stripes, not their own parents, but other species of the genus. To admit this view is, as it seems to me, to reject a real for an unreal, or at least for an unknown cause. It makes the works of God a mere mockery and deception; I would almost as soon believe with the old and ignorant cosmogonists, that fossil shells had never lived, but had been created in stone so as to mock the shells now living on the sea-shore.
SUMMARY. Our ignorance of the laws of variation is profound. Not in one case out of a hundred can we pretend to assign any reason why this or that part has varied. But whenever we have the means of instituting a comparison, the same laws appear to have acted in producing the lesser differences between varieties of the same species, and the greater differences between species of the same genus. Changed conditions generally induce mere fluctuating variability, but sometimes they cause direct and definite effects; and these may become strongly marked in the course of time, though we have not sufficient evidence on this head. Habit in producing constitutional peculiarities, and use in strengthening, and disuse in weakening and diminishing organs, appear in many cases to have been potent in their effects. Homologous parts tend to vary in the same manner, and homologous parts tend to cohere. Modifications in hard parts and in external parts sometimes affect softer and internal parts. When one part is largely developed, perhaps it tends to draw nourishment from the adjoining parts; and every part of the structure which can be saved without detriment will be saved. Changes of structure at an early age may affect parts subsequently developed; and many cases of correlated variation, the nature of which we are unable to understand, undoubtedly occur. Multiple parts are variable in number and in structure, perhaps arising from such parts not having been closely specialised for any particular function, so that their modifications have not been closely checked by natural selection. It follows probably from this same cause, that organic beings low in the scale are more variable than those standing higher in the scale, and which have their whole organisation more specialised. Rudimentary organs, from being useless, are not regulated by natural selection, and hence are variable. Specific characters--that is, the characters which have come to differ since the several species of the same genus branched off from a common parent--are more variable than generic characters, or those which have long been inherited, and have not differed within this same period. In these remarks we have referred to special parts or organs being still variable, because they have recently varied and thus come to differ; but we have also seen in the second chapter that the same principle applies to the whole individual; for in a district where many species of a genus are found--that is, where there has been much former variation and differentiation, or where the manufactory of new specific forms has been actively at work--in that district and among these species, we now find, on an average, most varieties. Secondary sexual characters are highly variable, and such characters differ much in the species of the same group. Variability in the same parts of the organisation has generally been taken advantage of in giving secondary sexual differences to the two sexes of the same species, and specific differences to the several species of the same genus. Any part or organ developed to an extraordinary size or in an extraordinary manner, in comparison with the same part or organ in the allied species, must have gone through an extraordinary amount of modification since the genus arose; and thus we can understand why it should often still be variable in a much higher degree than other parts; for variation is a long-continued and slow process, and natural selection will in such cases not as yet have had time to overcome the tendency to further variability and to reversion to a less modified state. But when a species with an extraordinarily developed organ has become the parent of many modified descendants--which on our view must be a very slow process, requiring a long lapse of time--in this case, natural selection has succeeded in giving a fixed character to the organ, in however extraordinary a manner it may have been developed. Species inheriting nearly the same constitution from a common parent, and exposed to similar influences, naturally tend to present analogous variations, or these same species may occasionally revert to some of the characters of their ancient progenitors. Although new and important modifications may not arise from reversion and analogous variation, such modifications will add to the beautiful and harmonious diversity of nature.
Whatever the cause may be of each slight difference between the offspring and their parents--and a cause for each must exist--we have reason to believe that it is the steady accumulation of beneficial differences which has given rise to all the more important modifications of structure in relation to the habits of each species.
Difficulties Of The Theory
Difficulties of the theory of descent with modification -- Absence or rarity of transitional varieties -- Transitions in habits of life -- Diversified habits in the same species -- Species with habits widely different from those of their allies -- Organs of extreme perfection -Modes of transition -- Cases of difficulty -- Natura non facit saltum -- Organs of small importance -- Organs not in all cases absolutely perfect -- The law of Unity of Type and of the Conditions of Existence embraced by the theory of Natural Selection.
Long before the reader has arrived at this part of my work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to him. Some of them are so serious that to this day I can hardly reflect on them without being in some degree staggered; but, to the best of my judgment, the greater number are only apparent, and those that are real are not, I think, fatal to the theory.
These difficulties and objections may be classed under the following heads: First, why, if species have descended from other species by fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion, instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined?
Secondly, is it possible that an animal having, for instance, the structure and habits of a bat, could have been formed by the modification of some other animal with widely different habits and structure? Can we believe that natural selection could produce, on the one hand, an organ of trifling importance, such as the tail of a giraffe, which serves as a fly-flapper, and, on the other hand, an organ so wonderful as the eye?
Thirdly, can instincts be acquired and modified through natural selection? What shall we say to the instinct which leads the bee to make cells, and which has practically anticipated the discoveries of profound mathematicians?Fourthly, how can we account for species, when crossed, being sterile and producing sterile offspring, whereas, when varieties are crossed, their fertility is unimpaired? The two first heads will be here discussed; some miscellaneous objections in the following chapter; Instinct and Hybridism in the two succeeding chapters. ON THE ABSENCE OR RARITY OF TRANSITIONAL VARIETIES.
As natural selection acts solely by the preservation of profitable modifications, each new form will tend in a fully-stocked country to take the place of, and finally to exterminate, its own less improved parent-form and other less-favoured forms with which it comes into competition. Thus extinction and natural selection go hand in hand. Hence, if we look at each species as descended from some unknown form, both the parent and all the transitional varieties will generally have been exterminated by the very process of the formation and perfection of the new form.
But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth? It will be more convenient to discuss this question in the chapter on the imperfection of the geological record; and I will here only state that I believe the answer mainly lies in the record being incomparably less perfect than is generally supposed. The crust of the earth is a vast museum; but the natural collections have been imperfectly made, and only at long intervals of time.
But it may be urged that when several closely allied species inhabit the same territory, we surely ought to find at the present time many transitional forms. Let us take a simple case: in travelling from north to south over a continent, we generally meet at successive intervals with closely allied or representative species, evidently filling nearly the same place in the natural economy of the land. These representative species often meet and interlock; and as the one becomes rarer and rarer, the other becomes more and more frequent, till the one replaces the other. But if we compare these species where they intermingle, they are generally as absolutely distinct from each other in every detail of structure as are specimens taken from the metropolis inhabited by each. By my theory these allied species are descended from a common parent; and during the process of modification, each has become adapted to the conditions of life of its own region, and has supplanted and exterminated its original parent-form and all the transitional varieties between its past and present states. Hence we ought not to expect at the present time to meet with numerous transitional varieties in each region, though they must have existed there, and may be embedded there in a fossil condition. But in the intermediate region, having intermediate conditions of life, why do we not now find closely-linking intermediate varieties? This difficulty for a long time quite confounded me. But I think it can be in large part explained.
In the first place we should be extremely cautious in inferring, because an area is now continuous, that it has been continuous during a long period. Geology would lead us to believe that most continents have been broken up into islands even during the later tertiary periods; and in such islands distinct species might have been separately formed without the possibility of intermediate varieties existing in the intermediate zones. By changes in the form of the land and of climate, marine areas now continuous must often have existed within recent times in a far less continuous and uniform condition than at present. But I will pass over this way of escaping from the difficulty; for I believe that many perfectly defined species have been formed on strictly continuous areas; though I do not doubt that the formerly broken condition of areas now continuous, has played an important part in the formation of new species, more especially with freely-crossing and wandering animals.
In looking at species as they are now distributed over a wide area, we generally find them tolerably numerous over a large territory, then becoming somewhat abruptly rarer and rarer on the confines, and finally disappearing. Hence the neutral territory between two representative species is generally narrow in comparison with the territory proper to each. We see the same fact in ascending mountains, and sometimes it is quite remarkable how abruptly, as Alph. De Candolle has observed, a common alpine species disappears. The same fact has been noticed by E. Forbes in sounding the depths of the sea with the dredge. To those who look at climate and the physical conditions of life as the allimportant elements of distribution, these facts ought to cause surprise, as climate and height or depth graduate away insensibly. But when we bear in mind that almost every species, even in its metropolis, would increase immensely in numbers, were it not for other competing species; that nearly all either prey on or serve as prey for others; in short, that each organic being is either directly or indirectly related in the most important manner to other organic beings--we see that the range of the inhabitants of any country by no means exclusively depends on insensibly changing physical conditions, but in large part on the presence of other species, on which it lives, or by which it is destroyed, or with which it comes into competition; and as these species are already defined objects, not blending one into another by insensible gradations, the range of any one species, depending as it does on the range of others, will tend to be sharply defined. Moreover, each species on the confines of its range, where it exists in lessened numbers, will, during fluctuations in the number of its enemies or of its prey, or in the nature of the seasons, be extremely liable to utter extermination; and thus its geographical range will come to be still more sharply defined.
As allied or representative species, when inhabiting a continuous area, are generally distributed in such a manner that each has a wide range, with a comparatively narrow neutral territory between them, in which they become rather suddenly rarer and rarer; then, as varieties do not essentially differ from species, the same rule will probably apply to both; and if we take a varying species inhabiting a very large area, we shall have to adapt two varieties to two large areas, and a third variety to a narrow intermediate zone. The intermediate variety, consequently, will exist in lesser numbers from inhabiting a narrow and lesser area; and practically, as far as I can make out, this rule holds good with varieties in a state of nature. I have met with striking instances of the rule in the case of varieties intermediate between well-marked varieties in the genus Balanus. And it would appear from information given me by Mr. Watson, Dr. Asa Gray, and Mr. Wollaston, that generally, when varieties intermediate between two other forms occur, they are much rarer numerically than the forms which they connect. Now, if we may trust these facts and inferences, and conclude that varieties linking two other varieties together generally have existed in lesser numbers than the forms which they connect, then we can understand why intermediate varieties should not endure for very long periods: why, as a general rule, they should be exterminated and disappear, sooner than the forms which they originally linked together.
For any form existing in lesser numbers would, as already remarked, run a greater chance of being exterminated than one existing in large numbers; and in this particular case the intermediate form would be eminently liable to the inroads of closely allied forms existing on both sides of it. But it is a far more important consideration, that during the process of further modification, by which two varieties are supposed to be converted and perfected into two distinct species, the two which exist in larger numbers, from inhabiting larger areas, will have a great advantage over the intermediate variety, which exists in smaller numbers in a narrow and intermediate zone. For forms existing in larger numbers will have a better chance, within any given period, of presenting further favourable variations for natural selection to seize on, than will the rarer forms which exist in lesser numbers. Hence, the more common forms, in the race for life, will tend to beat and supplant the less common forms, for these will be more slowly modified and improved. It is the same principle which, as I believe, accounts for the common species in each country, as shown in the second chapter, presenting on an average a greater number of well-marked varieties than do the rarer species. I may illustrate what I mean by supposing three varieties of sheep to be kept, one adapted to an extensive mountainous region; a second to a comparatively narrow, hilly tract; and a third to the wide plains at the base; and that the inhabitants are all trying with equal steadiness and skill to improve their stocks by selection; the chances in this case will be strongly in favour of the great holders on the mountains or on the plains improving their breeds more quickly than the small holders on the intermediate narrow, hilly tract; and consequently the improved mountain or plain breed will soon take the place of the less improved hill breed; and thus the two breeds, which originally existed in greater numbers, will come into close contact with each other, without the interposition of the supplanted, intermediate hill variety.
To sum up, I believe that species come to be tolerably well-defined objects, and do not at any one period present an inextricable chaos of varying and intermediate links: first, because new varieties are very slowly formed, for variation is a slow process, and natural selection can do nothing until favourable individual differences or variations occur, and until a place in the natural polity of the country can be better filled by some modification of some one or more of its inhabitants. And such new places will depend on slow changes of climate, or on the occasional immigration of new inhabitants, and, probably, in a still more important degree, on some of the old inhabitants becoming slowly modified, with the new forms thus produced and the old ones acting and reacting on each other. So that, in any one region and at any one time, we ought to see only a few species presenting slight modifications of structure in some degree permanent; and this assuredly we do see.
Secondly, areas now continuous must often have existed within the recent period as isolated portions, in which many forms, more especially among the classes which unite for each birth and wander much, may have separately been rendered sufficiently distinct to rank as representative species. In this case, intermediate varieties between the several representative species and their common parent, must formerly have existed within each isolated portion of the land, but these links during the process of natural selection will have been supplanted and exterminated, so that they will no longer be found in a living state.
Thirdly, when two or more varieties have been formed in different portions of a strictly continuous area, intermediate varieties will, it is probable, at first have been formed in the intermediate zones, but they will generally have had a short duration. For these intermediate varieties will, from reasons already assigned (namely from what we know of the actual distribution of closely allied or representative species, and likewise of acknowledged varieties), exist in the intermediate zones in lesser numbers than the varieties which they tend to connect. From this cause alone the intermediate varieties will be liable to accidental extermination; and during the process of further modification through natural selection, they will almost certainly be beaten and supplanted by the forms which they connect; for these, from existing in greater numbers will, in the aggregate, present more varieties, and thus be further improved through natural selection and gain further advantages.
Lastly, looking not to any one time, but at all time, if my theory be true, numberless intermediate varieties, linking closely together all the species of the same group, must assuredly have existed; but the very process of natural selection constantly tends, as has been so often remarked, to exterminate the parent forms and the intermediate links. Consequently evidence of their former existence could be found only among fossil remains, which are preserved, as we shall attempt to show in a future chapter, in an extremely imperfect and intermittent record.ON THE ORIGIN AND TRANSITION OF ORGANIC BEINGS WITH PECULIAR HABITS AND STRUCTURE.
It has been asked by the opponents of such views as I hold, how, for instance, could a land carnivorous animal have been converted into one with aquatic habits; for how could the animal in its transitional state have subsisted? It would be easy to show that there now exist carnivorous animals presenting close intermediate grades from strictly terrestrial to aquatic habits; and as each exists by a struggle for life, it is clear that each must be well adapted to its place in nature. Look at the Mustela vison of North America, which has webbed feet, and which resembles an otter in its fur, short legs, and form of tail; during summer this animal dives for and preys on fish, but during the long winter it leaves the frozen waters, and preys, like other polecats on mice and land animals. If a different case had been taken, and it had been asked how an insectivorous quadruped could possibly have been converted into a flying bat, the question would have been far more difficult to answer. Yet I think such difficulties have little weight.
Here, as on other occasions, I lie under a heavy disadvantage, for, out of the many striking cases which I have collected, I can give only one or two instances of transitional habits and structures in allied species; and of diversified habits, either constant or occasional, in the same species. And it seems to me that nothing less than a long list of such cases is sufficient to lessen the difficulty in any particular case like that of the bat.
Look at the family of squirrels; here we have the finest gradation from animals with their tails only slightly flattened, and from others, as Sir J. Richardson has remarked, with the posterior part of their bodies rather wide and with the skin on their flanks rather full, to the so-called flying squirrels; and flying squirrels have their limbs and even the base of the tail united by a broad expanse of skin, which serves as a parachute and allows them to glide through the air to an astonishing distance from tree to tree. We cannot doubt that each structure is of use to each kind of squirrel in its own country, by enabling it to escape birds or beasts of prey, or to collect food more quickly, or, as there is reason to believe, to lessen the danger from occasional falls. But it does not follow from this fact that the structure of each squirrel is the best that it is possible to conceive under all possible conditions. Let the climate and vegetation change, let other competing rodents or new beasts of prey immigrate, or old ones become modified, and all analogy would lead us to believe that some, at least, of the squirrels would decrease in numbers or become exterminated, unless they also become modified and improved in structure in a corresponding manner. Therefore, I can see no difficulty, more especially under changing conditions of life, in the continued preservation of individuals with fuller and fuller flankmembranes, each modification being useful, each being propagated, until, by the accumulated effects of this process of natural selection, a perfect so-called flying squirrel was produced.
Now look at the Galeopithecus or so-called flying lemur, which was formerly ranked among bats, but is now believed to belong to the Insectivora. An extremely wide flankmembrane stretches from the corners of the jaw to the tail, and includes the limbs with the elongated fingers. This flank- membrane is furnished with an extensor muscle. Although no graduated links of structure, fitted for gliding through the air, now connect the Galeopithecus with the other Insectivora, yet there is no difficulty in supposing that such links formerly existed, and that each was developed in the same manner as with the less perfectly gliding squirrels; each grade of structure having been useful to its possessor. Nor can I see any insuperable difficulty in further believing it possible that the membrane-connected fingers and fore-arm of the Galeopithecus might have been greatly lengthened by natural selection; and this, as far as the organs of flight are concerned, would have converted the animal into a bat. In certain bats in which the wing-membrane extends from the top of the shoulder to the tail and includes the hind-legs, we perhaps see traces of an apparatus originally fitted for gliding through the air rather than for flight.
If about a dozen genera of birds were to become extinct, who would have ventured to surmise that birds might have existed which used their wings solely as flappers, like the logger headed duck (Micropterus of Eyton); as fins in the water and as front legs on the land, like the penguin; as sails, like the ostrich; and functionally for no purpose, like the apteryx? Yet the structure of each of these birds is good for it, under the conditions of life to which it is exposed, for each has to live by a struggle: but it is not necessarily the best possible under all possible conditions. It must not be inferred from these remarks that any of the grades of wing-structure here alluded to, which perhaps may all be the result of disuse, indicate the steps by which birds actually acquired their perfect power of flight; but they serve to show what diversified means of transition are at least possible.
Seeing that a few members of such water-breathing classes as the Crustacea and Mollusca are adapted to live on the land; and seeing that we have flying birds and mammals, flying insects of the most diversified types, and formerly had flying reptiles, it is conceivable that flying-fish, which now glide far through the air, slightly rising and turning by the aid of their fluttering fins, might have been modified into perfectly winged animals. If this had been effected, who would have ever imagined that in an early transitional state they had been inhabitants of the open ocean, and had used their incipient organs of flight exclusively, so far as we know, to escape being devoured by other fish?
When we see any structure highly perfected for any particular habit, as the wings of a bird for flight, we should bear in mind that animals displaying early transitional grades of the structure will seldom have survived to the present day, for they will have been supplanted by their successors, which were gradually rendered more perfect through natural selection. Furthermore, we may conclude that transitional states between structures fitted for very different habits of life will rarely have been developed at an early period in great numbers and under many subordinate forms. Thus, to return to our imaginary illustration of the flying-fish, it does not seem probable that fishes capable of true flight would have been developed under many subordinate forms, for taking prey of many kinds in many ways, on the land and in the water, until their organs of flight had come to a high stage of perfection, so as to have given them a decided advantage over other animals in the battle for life. Hence the chance of discovering species with transitional grades of structure in a fossil condition will always be less, from their having existed in lesser numbers, than in the case of species with fully developed structures.
I will now give two or three instances, both of diversified and of changed habits, in the individuals of the same species. In either case it would be easy for natural selection to adapt the structure of the animal to its changed habits, or exclusively to one of its several habits. It is, however, difficult to decide and immaterial for us, whether habits generally change first and structure afterwards; or whether slight modifications of structure lead to changed habits; both probably often occurring almost simultaneously. Of cases of changed habits it will suffice merely to allude to that of the many British insects which now feed on exotic plants, or exclusively on artificial substances. Of diversified habits innumerable instances could be given: I have often watched a tyrant flycatcher (Saurophagus sulphuratus) in South America, hovering over one spot and then proceeding to another, like a kestrel, and at other times standing stationary on the margin of water, and then dashing into it like a kingfisher at a fish. In our own country the larger titmouse (Parus major) may be seen climbing branches, almost like a creeper; it sometimes, like a shrike, kills small birds by blows on the head; and I have many times seen and heard it hammering the seeds of the yew on a branch, and thus breaking them like a nuthatch. In North America the black bear was seen by Hearne swimming for hours with widely open mouth, thus catching, almost like a whale, insects in the water.
As we sometimes see individuals following habits different from those proper to their species and to the other species of the same genus, we might expect that such individuals would occasionally give rise to new species, having anomalous habits, and with their structure either slightly or considerably modified from that of their type. And such instances occur in nature. Can a more striking instance of adaptation be given than that of a woodpecker for climbing trees and seizing insects in the chinks of the bark? Yet in North America there are woodpeckers which feed largely on fruit, and others with elongated wings which chase insects on the wing. On the plains of La Plata, where hardly a tree grows, there is a woodpecker (Colaptes campestris) which has two toes before and two behind, a long- pointed tongue, pointed tail-feathers, sufficiently stiff to support the bird in a vertical position on a post, but not so stiff as in the typical wood-peckers, and a straight, strong beak. The beak, however, is not so straight or so strong as in the typical woodpeckers but it is strong enough to bore into wood. Hence this Colaptes, in all the essential parts of its structure, is a woodpecker. Even in such trifling characters as the colouring, the harsh tone of the voice, and undulatory flight, its close blood-relationship to our common woodpecker is plainly declared; yet, as I can assert, not only from my own observations, but from those of the accurate Azara, in certain large districts it does not climb trees, and it makes its nest in holes in banks! In certain other districts, however, this same woodpecker, as Mr. Hudson states, frequents trees, and bores holes in the trunk for its nest. I may mention as another illustration of the varied habits of this genus, that a Mexican Colaptes has been described by De Saussure as boring holes into hard wood in order to lay up a store of acorns.
Petrels are the most aerial and oceanic of birds, but, in the quiet sounds of Tierra del Fuego, the Puffinuria berardi, in its general habits, in its astonishing power of diving, in its manner of swimming and of flying when made to take flight, would be mistaken by any one for an auk or a grebe; nevertheless, it is essentially a petrel, but with many parts of its organisation profoundly modified in relation to its new habits of life; whereas the woodpecker of La Plata has had its structure only slightly modified. In the case of the water-ouzel, the acutest observer, by examining its dead body, would never have suspected its sub-aquatic habits; yet this bird, which is allied to the thrush family, subsists by diving,--using its wings under water and grasping stones with its feet. All the members of the great order of Hymenopterous insects are terrestrial, excepting the genus Proctotrupes, which Sir John Lubbock has discovered to be aquatic in its habits; it often enters the water and dives about by the use not of its legs but of its wings, and remains as long as four hours beneath the surface; yet it exhibits no modification in structure in accordance with its abnormal habits.
He who believes that each being has been created as we now see it, must occasionally have felt surprise when he has met with an animal having habits and structure not in agreement. What can be plainer than that the webbed feet of ducks and geese are formed for swimming? Yet there are upland geese with webbed feet which rarely go near the water; and no one except Audubon, has seen the frigate-bird, which has all its four toes webbed, alight on the surface of the ocean. On the other hand, grebes and coots are eminently aquatic, although their toes are only bordered by membrane. What seems plainer than that the long toes, not furnished with membrane, of the Grallatores, are formed for walking over swamps and floating plants. The water-hen and landrail are members of this order, yet the first is nearly as aquatic as the coot, and the second is nearly as terrestrial as the quail or partridge. In such cases, and many others could be given, habits have changed without a corresponding change of structure. The webbed feet of the upland goose may be said to have become almost rudimentary in function, though not in structure. In the frigate-bird, the deeply scooped membrane between the toes shows that structure has begun to change.
He who believes in separate and innumerable acts of creation may say, that in these cases it has pleased the Creator to cause a being of one type to take the place of one belonging to another type; but this seems to me only restating the fact in dignified language. He who believes in the struggle for existence and in the principle of natural selection, will acknowledge that every organic being is constantly endeavouring to increase in numbers; and that if any one being varies ever so little, either in habits or structure, and thus gains an advantage over some other inhabitant of the same country, it will seize on the place of that inhabitant, however different that may be from its own place. Hence it will cause him no surprise that there should be geese and frigate-birds with webbed feet, living on the dry land and rarely alighting on the water, that there should be long-toed corncrakes, living in meadows instead of in swamps; that there should be woodpeckers where hardly a tree grows; that there should be diving thrushes and diving Hymenoptera, and petrels with the habits of auks.ORGANS OF EXTREME PERFECTION AND COMPLICATION.
To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself originated; but I may remark that, as some of the lowest organisms in which nerves cannot be detected, are capable of perceiving light, it does not seem impossible that certain sensitive elements in their sarcode should become aggregated and developed into nerves, endowed with this special sensibility.
In searching for the gradations through which an organ in any species has been perfected, we ought to look exclusively to its lineal progenitors; but this is scarcely ever possible, and we are forced to look to other species and genera of the same group, that is to the collateral descendants from the same parent-form, in order to see what gradations are possible, and for the chance of some gradations having been transmitted in an unaltered or little altered condition. But the state of the same organ in distinct classes may incidentally throw light on the steps by which it has been perfected.
The simplest organ which can be called an eye consists of an optic nerve, surrounded by pigment-cells and covered by translucent skin, but without any lens or other refractive body. We may, however, according to M. Jourdain, descend even a step lower and find aggregates of pigment-cells, apparently serving as organs of vision, without any nerves, and resting merely on sarcodic tissue. Eyes of the above simple nature are not capable of distinct vision, and serve only to distinguish light from darkness. In certain star-fishes, small depressions in the layer of pigment which surrounds the nerve are filled, as described by the author just quoted, with transparent gelatinous matter, projecting with a convex surface, like the cornea in the higher animals. He suggests that this serves not to form an image, but only to concentrate the luminous rays and render their perception more easy. In this concentration of the rays we gain the first and by far the most important step towards the formation of a true, picture-forming eye; for we have only to place the naked extremity of the optic nerve, which in some of the lower animals lies deeply buried in the body, and in some near the surface, at the right distance from the concentrating apparatus, and an image will be formed on it.
In the great class of the Articulata, we may start from an optic nerve simply coated with pigment, the latter sometimes forming a sort of pupil, but destitute of lens or other optical contrivance. With insects it is now known that the numerous facets on the cornea of their great compound eyes form true lenses, and that the cones include curiously modified nervous filaments. But these organs in the Articulata are so much diversified that Muller formerly made three main classes with seven subdivisions, besides a fourth main class of aggregated simple eyes.
When we reflect on these facts, here given much too briefly, with respect to the wide, diversified, and graduated range of structure in the eyes of the lower animals; and when we bear in mind how small the number of all living forms must be in comparison with those which have become extinct, the difficulty ceases to be very great in believing that natural selection may have converted the simple apparatus of an optic nerve, coated with pigment and invested by transparent membrane, into an optical instrument as perfect as is possessed by any member of the Articulata class.
He who will go thus far, ought not to hesitate to go one step further, if he finds on finishing this volume that large bodies of facts, otherwise inexplicable, can be explained by the theory of modification through natural selection; he ought to admit that a structure even as perfect as an eagle's eye might thus be formed, although in this case he does not know the transitional states. It has been objected that in order to modify the eye and still preserve it as a perfect instrument, many changes would have to be effected simultaneously, which, it is assumed, could not be done through natural selection; but as I have attempted to show in my work on the variation of domestic animals, it is not necessary to suppose that the modifications were all simultaneous, if they were extremely slight and gradual. Different kinds of modification would, also, serve for the same general purpose: as Mr. Wallace has remarked, "If a lens has too short or too long a focus, it may be amended either by an alteration of curvature, or an alteration of density; if the curvature be irregular, and the rays do not converge to a point, then any increased regularity of curvature will be an improvement. So the contraction of the iris and the muscular movements of the eye are neither of them essential to vision, but only improvements which might have been added and perfected at any stage of the construction of the instrument." Within the highest division of the animal kingdom, namely, the Vertebrata, we can start from an eye so simple, that it consists, as in the lancelet, of a little sack of transparent skin, furnished with a nerve and lined with pigment, but destitute of any other apparatus. In fishes and reptiles, as Owen has remarked, "The range of gradation of dioptric structures is very great." It is a significant fact that even in man, according to the high authority of Virchow, the beautiful crystalline lens is formed in the embryo by an accumulation of epidermic cells, lying in a sack-like fold of the skin; and the vitreous body is formed from embryonic subcutaneous tissue. To arrive, however, at a just conclusion regarding the formation of the eye, with all its marvellous yet not absolutely perfect characters, it is indispensable that the reason should conquer the imagination; but I have felt the difficulty far to keenly to be surprised at others hesitating to extend the principle of natural selection to so startling a length.
It is scarcely possible to avoid comparing the eye with a telescope. We know that this instrument has been perfected by the long-continued efforts of the highest human intellects; and we naturally infer that the eye has been formed by a somewhat analogous process. But may not this inference be presumptuous? Have we any right to assume that the Creator works by intellectual powers like those of man? If we must compare the eye to an optical instrument, we ought in imagination to take a thick layer of transparent tissue, with spaces filled with fluid, and with a nerve sensitive to light beneath, and then suppose every part of this layer to be continually changing slowly in density, so as to separate into layers of different densities and thicknesses, placed at different distances from each other, and with the surfaces of each layer slowly changing in form. Further we must suppose that there is a power, represented by natural selection or the survival of the fittest, always intently watching each slight alteration in the transparent layers; and carefully preserving each which, under varied circumstances, in any way or degree, tends to produce a distincter image. We must suppose each new state of the instrument to be multiplied by the million; each to be preserved until a better is produced, and then the old ones to be all destroyed. In living bodies, variation will cause the slight alteration, generation will multiply them almost infinitely, and natural selection will pick out with unerring skill each improvement. Let this process go on for millions of years; and during each year on millions of individuals of many kinds; and may we not believe that a living optical instrument might thus be formed as superior to one of glass, as the works of the Creator are to those of man?MODES Of TRANSITION.
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case. No doubt many organs exist of which we do not know the transitional grades, more especially if we look to muchisolated species, around which, according to the theory, there has been much extinction. Or again, if we take an organ common to all the members of a class, for in this latter case the organ must have been originally formed at a remote period, since which all the many members of the class have been developed; and in order to discover the early transitional grades through which the organ has passed, we should have to look to very ancient ancestral forms, long since become extinct.
We should be extremely cautious in concluding that an organ could not have been formed by transitional gradations of some kind. Numerous cases could be given among the lower animals of the same organ performing at the same time wholly distinct functions; thus in the larva of the dragon-fly and in the fish Cobites the alimentary canal respires, digests, and excretes. In the Hydra, the animal may be turned inside out, and the exterior surface will then digest and the stomach respire. In such cases natural selection might specialise, if any advantage were thus gained, the whole or part of an organ, which had previously performed two functions, for one function alone, and thus by insensible steps greatly change its nature. Many plants are known which regularly produce at the same time differently constructed flowers; and if such plants were to produce one kind alone, a great change would be effected with comparative suddenness in the character of the species. It is, however, probable that the two sorts of flowers borne by the same plant were originally differentiated by finely graduated steps, which may still be followed in some few cases.
Again, two distinct organs, or the same organ under two very different forms, may simultaneously perform in the same individual the same function, and this is an extremely important means of transition: to give one instance--there are fish with gills or branchiae that breathe the air dissolved in the water, at the same time that they breathe free air in their swim-bladders, this latter organ being divided by highly vascular partitions and having a ductus pneumaticus for the supply of air. To give another instance from the vegetable kingdom: plants climb by three distinct means, by spirally twining, by clasping a support with their sensitive tendrils, and by the emission of aerial rootlets; these three means are usually found in distinct groups, but some few species exhibit two of the means, or even all three, combined in the same individual. In all such cases one of the two organs might readily be modified and perfected so as to perform all the work, being aided during the progress of modification by the other organ; and then this other organ might be modified for some other and quite distinct purpose, or be wholly obliterated.
The illustration of the swim-bladder in fishes is a good one, because it shows us clearly the highly important fact that an organ originally constructed for one purpose, namely flotation, may be converted into one for a widely different purpose, namely respiration. The swim-bladder has, also, been worked in as an accessory to the auditory organs of certain fishes. All physiologists admit that the swim-bladder is homologous, or "ideally similar" in position and structure with the lungs of the higher vertebrate animals: hence there is no reason to doubt that the swim- bladder has actually been converted into lungs, or an organ used exclusively for respiration.
According to this view it may be inferred that all vertebrate animals with true lungs are descended by ordinary generation from an ancient and unknown prototype which was furnished with a floating apparatus or swim-bladder. We can thus, as I infer from Professor Owen's interesting description of these parts, understand the strange fact that every particle of food and drink which we swallow has to pass over the orifice of the trachea, with some risk of falling into the lungs, notwithstanding the beautiful contrivance by which the glottis is closed. In the higher Vertebrata the branchiae have wholly disappeared--but in the embryo the slits on the sides of the neck and the loop-like course of the arteries still mark their former position. But it is conceivable that the now utterly lost branchiae might have been gradually worked in by natural selection for some distinct purpose: for instance, Landois has shown that the wings of insects are developed from the trachea; it is therefore highly probable that in this great class organs which once served for respiration have been actually converted into organs for flight. In considering transitions of organs, it is so important to bear in mind the probability of conversion from one function to another, that I will give another instance. Pedunculated cirripedes have two minute folds of skin, called by me the ovigerous frena, which serve, through the means of a sticky secretion, to retain the eggs until they are hatched within the sack. These cirripedes have no branchiae, the whole surface of the body and of the sack, together with the small frena, serving for respiration. The Balanidae or sessile cirripedes, on the other hand, have no ovigerous frena, the eggs lying loose at the bottom of the sack, within the well-enclosed shell; but they have, in the same relative position with the frena, large, much-folded membranes, which freely communicate with the circulatory lacunae of the sack and body, and which have been considered by all naturalists to act as branchiae. Now I think no one will dispute that the ovigerous frena in the one family are strictly homologous with the branchiae of the other family; indeed, they graduate into each other. Therefore it need not be doubted that the two little folds of skin, which originally served as ovigerous frena, but which, likewise, very slightly aided in the act of respiration, have been gradually converted by natural selection into branchiae, simply through an increase in their size and the obliteration of their adhesive glands. If all pedunculated cirripedes had become extinct, and they have suffered far more extinction than have sessile cirripedes, who would ever have imagined that the branchiae in this latter family had originally existed as organs for preventing the ova from being washed out of the sack?
There is another possible mode of transition, namely, through the acceleration or retardation of the period of reproduction. This has lately been insisted on by Professor Cope and others in the United States. It is now known that some animals are capable of reproduction at a very early age, before they have acquired their perfect characters; and if this power became thoroughly well developed in a species, it seems probable that the adult stage of development would sooner or later be lost; and in this case, especially if the larva differed much from the mature form, the character of the species would be greatly changed and degraded. Again, not a few animals, after arriving at maturity, go on changing in character during nearly their whole lives. With mammals, for instance, the form of the skull is often much altered with age, of which Dr. Murie has given some striking instances with seals. Every one knows how the horns of stags become more and more branched, and the plumes of some birds become more finely developed, as they grow older. Professor Cope states that the teeth of certain lizards change much in shape with advancing years. With crustaceans not only many trivial, but some important parts assume a new character, as recorded by Fritz Muller, after maturity. In all such cases- and many could be given--if the age for reproduction were retarded, the character of the species, at least in its adult state, would be modified; nor is it improbable that the previous and earlier stages of development would in some cases be hurried through and finally lost. Whether species have often or ever been modified through this comparatively sudden mode of transition, I can form no opinion; but if this has occurred, it is probable that the differences between the young and the mature, and between the mature and the old, were primordially acquired by graduated steps.
SPECIAL DIFFICULTIES OF THE THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION. Although we must be extremely cautious in concluding that any organ could not have been produced by successive, small, transitional gradations, yet undoubtedly serious cases of difficulty occur.
One of the most serious is that of neuter insects, which are often differently constructed from either the males or fertile females; but this case will be treated of in the next chapter. The electric organs of fishes offer another case of special difficulty; for it is impossible to conceive by what steps these wondrous organs have been produced. But this is not surprising, for we do not even know of what use they are. In the gymnotus and torpedo they no doubt serve as powerful means of defence, and perhaps for securing prey; yet in the ray, as observed by Matteucci, an analogous organ in the tail manifests but little electricity, even when the animal is greatly irritated; so little that it can hardly be of any use for the above purposes. Moreover, in the ray, besides the organ just referred to, there is, as Dr. R. McDonnell has shown, another organ near the head, not known to be electrical, but which appears to be the real homologue of the electric battery in the torpedo. It is generally admitted that there exists between these organs and ordinary muscle a close analogy, in intimate structure, in the distribution of the nerves, and in the manner in which they are acted on by various reagents. It should, also, be especially observed that muscular contraction is accompanied by an electrical discharge; and, as Dr. Radcliffe insists, "in the electrical apparatus of the torpedo during rest, there would seem to be a charge in every respect like that which is met with in muscle and nerve during the rest, and the discharge of the torpedo, instead of being peculiar, may be only another form of the discharge which attends upon the action of muscle and motor nerve." Beyond this we cannot at present go in the way of explanation; but as we know so little about the uses of these organs, and as we know nothing about the habits and structure of the progenitors of the existing electric fishes, it would be extremely bold to maintain that no serviceable transitions are possible by which these organs might have been gradually developed.
These organs appear at first to offer another and far more serious difficulty; for they occur in about a dozen kinds of fish, of which several are widely remote in their affinities. When the same organ is found in several members of the same class, especially if in members having very different habits of life, we may generally attribute its presence to inheritance from a common ancestor; and its absence in some of the members to loss through disuse or natural selection. So that, if the electric organs had been inherited from some one ancient progenitor, we might have expected that all electric fishes would have been specially related to each other; but this is far from the case. Nor does geology at all lead to the belief that most fishes formerly possessed electric organs, which their modified descendants have now lost. But when we look at the subject more closely, we find in the several fishes provided with electric organs, that these are situated in different parts of the body, that they differ in construction, as in the arrangement of the plates, and, according to Pacini, in the process or means by which the electricity is excited--and lastly, in being supplied with nerves proceeding from different sources, and this is perhaps the most important of all the differences. Hence in the several fishes furnished with electric organs, these cannot be considered as homologous, but only as analogous in function. Consequently there is no reason to suppose that they have been inherited from a common progenitor; for had this been the case they would have closely resembled each other in all respects. Thus the difficulty of an organ, apparently the same, arising in several remotely allied species, disappears, leaving only the lesser yet still great difficulty: namely, by what graduated steps these organs have been developed in each separate group of fishes.
The luminous organs which occur in a few insects, belonging to widely different families, and which are situated in different parts of the body, offer, under our present state of ignorance, a difficulty almost exactly parallel with that of the electric organs. Other similar cases could be given; for instance in plants, the very curious contrivance of a mass of pollen-grains, borne on a foot-stalk with an adhesive gland, is apparently the same in Orchis and Asclepias, genera almost as remote as is possible among flowering plants; but here again the parts are not homologous. In all cases of beings, far removed from each other in the scale of organisation, which are furnished with similar and peculiar organs, it will be found that although the general appearance and function of the organs may be the same, yet fundamental differences between them can always be detected. For instance, the eyes of Cephalopods or cuttle-fish and of vertebrate animals appear wonderfully alike; and in such widely sundered groups no part of this resemblance can be due to inheritance from a common progenitor. Mr. Mivart has advanced this case as one of special difficulty, but I am unable to see the force of his argument. An organ for vision must be formed of transparent tissue, and must include some sort of lens for throwing an image at the back of a darkened chamber. Beyond this superficial resemblance, there is hardly any real similarity between the eyes of cuttle-fish and vertebrates, as may be seen by consulting Hensen's admirable memoir on these organs in the Cephalopoda. It is impossible for me here to enter on details, but I may specify a few of the points of difference. The crystalline lens in the higher cuttle-fish consists of two parts, placed one behind the other like two lenses, both having a very different structure and disposition to what occurs in the vertebrata. The retina is wholly different, with an actual inversion of the elemental parts, and with a large nervous ganglion included within the membranes of the eye. The relations of the muscles are as different as it is possible to conceive, and so in other points. Hence it is not a little difficult to decide how far even the same terms ought to be employed in describing the eyes of the Cephalopoda and Vertebrata. It is, of course, open to any one to deny that the eye in either case could have been developed through the natural selection of successive slight variations; but if this be admitted in the one case it is clearly possible in the other; and fundamental differences of structure in the visual organs of two groups might have been anticipated, in accordance with this view of their manner of formation. As two men have sometimes independently hit on the same invention, so in the several foregoing cases it appears that natural selection, working for the good of each being, and taking advantage of all favourable variations, has produced similar organs, as far as function is concerned, in distinct organic beings, which owe none of their structure in common to inheritance from a common progenitor.
Fritz Muller, in order to test the conclusions arrived at in this volume, has followed out with much care a nearly similar line of argument. Several families of crustaceans include a few species, possessing an air-breathing apparatus and fitted to live out of the water. In two of these families, which were more especially examined by Muller, and which are nearly related to each other, the species agree most closely in all important characters: namely in their sense organs, circulating systems, in the position of the tufts of hair within their complex stomachs, and lastly in the whole structure of the water-breathing branchiae, even to the microscopical hooks by which they are cleansed. Hence it might have been expected that in the few species belonging to both families which live on the land, the equally important air-breathing apparatus would have been the same; for why should this one apparatus, given for the same purpose, have been made to differ, while all the other important organs were closely similar, or rather, identical.
Fritz Muller argues that this close similarity in so many points of structure must, in accordance with the views advanced by me, be accounted for by inheritance from a common progenitor. But as the vast majority of the species in the above two families, as well as most other crustaceans, are aquatic in their habits, it is improbable in the highest degree that their common progenitor should have been adapted for breathing air. Muller was thus led carefully to examine the apparatus in the air-breathing species; and he found it to differ in each in several important points, as in the position of the orifices, in the manner in which they are opened and closed, and in some accessory details. Now such differences are intelligible, and might even have been expected, on the supposition that species belonging to distinct families had slowly become adapted to live more and more out of water, and to breathe the air. For these species, from belonging to distinct families, would have differed to a certain extent, and in accordance with the principle that the nature of each variation depends on two factors, viz., the nature of the organism and that of the surrounding conditions, their variability assuredly would not have been exactly the same. Consequently natural selection would have had different materials or variations to work on, in order to arrive at the same functional result; and the structures thus acquired would almost necessarily have differed. On the hypothesis of separate acts of creation the whole case remains unintelligible. This line of argument seems to have had great weight in leading Fritz Muller to accept the views maintained by me in this volume.
Another distinguished zoologist, the late Professor Claparede, has argued in the same manner, and has arrived at the same result. He shows that there are parasitic mites (Acaridae), belonging to distinct sub-families and families, which are furnished with hairclaspers. These organs must have been independently developed, as they could not have been inherited from a common progenitor; and in the several groups they are formed by the modification of the fore legs, of the hind legs, of the maxillae or lips, and of appendages on the under side of the hind part of the body.
In the foregoing cases, we see the same end gained and the same function performed, in beings not at all or only remotely allied, by organs in appearance, though not in development, closely similar. On the other hand, it is a common rule throughout nature that the same end should be gained, even sometimes in the case of closely related beings, by the most diversified means. How differently constructed is the feathered wing of a bird and the membrane-covered wing of a bat; and still more so the four wings of a butterfly, the two wings of a fly, and the two wings with the elytra of a beetle. Bivalve shells are made to open and shut, but on what a number of patterns is the hinge constructed, from the long row of neatly interlocking teeth in a Nucula to the simple ligament of a Mussel! Seeds are disseminated by their minuteness, by their capsule being converted into a light balloon-like envelope, by being embedded in pulp or flesh, formed of the most diverse parts, and rendered nutritious, as well as conspicuously coloured, so as to attract and be devoured by birds, by having hooks and grapnels of many kinds and serrated awns, so as to adhere to the fur of quadrupeds, and by being furnished with wings and plumes, as different in shape as they are elegant in structure, so as to be wafted by every breeze. I will give one other instance: for this subject of the same end being gained by the most diversified means well deserves attention. Some authors maintain that organic beings have been formed in many ways for the sake of mere variety, almost like toys in a shop, but such a view of nature is incredible. With plants having separated sexes, and with those in which, though hermaphrodites, the pollen does not spontaneously fall on the stigma, some aid is necessary for their fertilisation. With several kinds this is effected by the pollen-grains, which are light and incoherent, being blown by the wind through mere chance on to the stigma; and this is the simplest plan which can well be conceived. An almost equally simple, though very different plan occurs in many plants in which a symmetrical flower secretes a few drops of nectar, and is consequently visited by insects; and these carry the pollen from the anthers to the stigma.
From this simple stage we may pass through an inexhaustible number of contrivances, all for the same purpose and effected in essentially the same manner, but entailing changes in every part of the flower. The nectar may be stored in variously shaped receptacles, with the stamens and pistils modified in many ways, sometimes forming trap-like contrivances, and sometimes capable of neatly adapted movements through irritability or elasticity. From such structures we may advance till we come to such a case of extraordinary adaptation as that lately described by Dr. Cruger in the Coryanthes. This orchid has part of its labellum or lower lip hollowed out into a great bucket, into which drops of almost pure water continually fall from two secreting horns which stand above it; and when the bucket is half-full, the water overflows by a spout on one side. The basal part of the labellum stands over the bucket, and is itself hollowed out into a sort of chamber with two lateral entrances; within this chamber there are curious fleshy ridges. The most ingenious man, if he had not witnessed what takes place, could never have imagined what purpose all these parts serve. But Dr. Cruger saw crowds of large humblebees visiting the gigantic flowers of this orchid, not in order to suck nectar, but to gnaw off the ridges within the chamber above the bucket; in doing this they frequently pushed each other into the bucket, and their wings being thus wetted they could not fly away, but were compelled to crawl out through the passage formed by the spout or overflow. Dr. Cruger saw a "continual procession" of bees thus crawling out of their involuntary bath. The passage is narrow, and is roofed over by the column, so that a bee, in forcing its way out, first rubs its back against the viscid stigma and then against the viscid glands of the pollen-masses. The pollen-masses are thus glued to the back of the bee which first happens to crawl out through the passage of a lately expanded flower, and are thus carried away. Dr. Cruger sent me a flower in spirits of wine, with a bee which he had killed before it had quite crawled out, with a pollen-mass still fastened to its back. When the bee, thus provided, flies to another flower, or to the same flower a second time, and is pushed by its comrades into the bucket and then crawls out by the passage, the pollenmass necessarily comes first into contact with the viscid stigma, and adheres to it, and the flower is fertilised. Now at last we see the full use of every part of the flower, of the water-secreting horns of the bucket half-full of water, which prevents the bees from flying away, and forces them to crawl out through the spout, and rub against the properly placed viscid pollen-masses and the viscid stigma.
The construction of the flower in another closely allied orchid, namely, the Catasetum, is widely different, though serving the same end; and is equally curious. Bees visit these flowers, like those of the Coryanthes, in order to gnaw the labellum; in doing this they inevitably touch a long, tapering, sensitive projection, or, as I have called it, the antenna. This antenna, when touched, transmits a sensation or vibration to a certain membrane which is instantly ruptured; this sets free a spring by which the pollen-mass is shot forth, like an arrow, in the right direction, and adheres by its viscid extremity to the back of the bee. The pollen-mass of the male plant (for the sexes are separate in this orchid) is thus carried to the flower of the female plant, where it is brought into contact with the stigma, which is viscid enough to break certain elastic threads, and retain the pollen, thus effecting fertilisation.
How, it may be asked, in the foregoing and in innumerable other instances, can we understand the graduated scale of complexity and the multifarious means for gaining the same end. The answer no doubt is, as already remarked, that when two forms vary, which already differ from each other in some slight degree, the variability will not be of the same exact nature, and consequently the results obtained through natural selection for the same general purpose will not be the same. We should also bear in mind that every highly developed organism has passed through many changes; and that each modified structure tends to be inherited, so that each modification will not readily be quite lost, but may be again and again further altered. Hence, the structure of each part of each species, for whatever purpose it may serve, is the sum of many inherited changes, through which the species has passed during its successive adaptations to changed habits and conditions of life.
Finally, then, although in many cases it is most difficult even to conjecture by what transitions organs could have arrived at their present state; yet, considering how small the proportion of living and known forms is to the extinct and unknown, I have been astonished how rarely an organ can be named, towards which no transitional grade is known to lead. It is certainly true, that new organs appearing as if created for some special purpose rarely or never appear in any being; as indeed is shown by that old, but somewhat exaggerated, canon in natural history of "Natura non facit saltum." We meet with this admission in the writings of almost every experienced naturalist; or, as Milne Edwards has well expressed it, "Nature is prodigal in variety, but niggard in innovation." Why, on the theory of Creation, should there be so much variety and so little real novelty? Why should all the parts and organs of many independent beings, each supposed to have been separately created for its own proper place in nature, be so commonly linked together by graduated steps? Why should not Nature take a sudden leap from structure to structure? On the theory of natural selection, we can clearly understand why she should not; for natural selection acts only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a great and sudden leap, but must advance by the short and sure, though slow steps.ORGANS OF LITTLE APPARENT IMPORTANCE, AS AFFECTED BY NATURAL SELECTION.
As natural selection acts by life and death, by the survival of the fittest, and by the destruction of the less well-fitted individuals, I have sometimes felt great difficulty in understanding the origin or formation of parts of little importance; almost as great, though of a very different kind, as in the case of the most perfect and complex organs.
In the first place, we are much too ignorant in regard to the whole economy of any one organic being to say what slight modifications would be of importance or not. In a former chapter I have given instances of very trifling characters, such as the down on fruit and the colour of its flesh, the colour of the skin and hair of quadrupeds, which, from being correlated with constitutional differences, or from determining the attacks of insects, might assuredly be acted on by natural selection. The tail of the giraffe looks like an artificially constructed fly-flapper; and it seems at first incredible that this could have been adapted for its present purpose by successive slight modifications, each better and better fitted, for so trifling an object as to drive away flies; yet we should pause before being too positive even in this case, for we know that the distribution and existence of cattle and other animals in South America absolutely depend on their power of resisting the attacks of insects: so that individuals which could by any means defend themselves from these small enemies, would be able to range into new pastures and thus gain a great advantage. It is not that the larger quadrupeds are actually destroyed (except in some rare cases) by flies, but they are incessantly harassed and their strength reduced, so that they are more subject to disease, or not so well enabled in a coming dearth to search for food, or to escape from beasts of prey.
Organs now of trifling importance have probably in some cases been of high importance to an early progenitor, and, after having been slowly perfected at a former period, have been transmitted to existing species in nearly the same state, although now of very slight use; but any actually injurious deviations in their structure would of course have been checked by natural selection. Seeing how important an organ of locomotion the tail is in most aquatic animals, its general presence and use for many purposes in so many land animals, which in their lungs or modified swim-bladders betray their aquatic origin, may perhaps be thus accounted for. A well-developed tail having been formed in an aquatic animal, it might subsequently come to be worked in for all sorts of purposes, as a flyflapper, an organ of prehension, or as an aid in turning, as in the case of the dog, though the aid in this latter respect must be slight, for the hare, with hardly any tail, can double still more quickly.
In the second place, we may easily err in attributing importance to characters, and in believing that they have been developed through natural selection. We must by no means overlook the effects of the definite action of changed conditions of life, of so-called spontaneous variations, which seem to depend in a quite subordinate degree on the nature of the conditions, of the tendency to reversion to long-lost characters, of the complex laws of growth, such as of correlation, comprehension, of the pressure of one part on another, etc., and finally of sexual selection, by which characters of use to one sex are often gained and then transmitted more or less perfectly to the other sex, though of no use to the sex. But structures thus indirectly gained, although at first of no advantage to a species, may subsequently have been taken advantage of by its modified descendants, under new conditions of life and newly acquired habits.
If green woodpeckers alone had existed, and we did not know that there were many black and pied kinds, I dare say that we should have thought that the green colour was a beautiful adaptation to conceal this tree-frequenting bird from its enemies; and consequently that it was a character of importance, and had been acquired through natural selection; as it is, the colour is probably in chief part due to sexual selection. A trailing palm in the Malay Archipelago climbs the loftiest trees by the aid of exquisitely constructed hooks clustered around the ends of the branches, and this contrivance, no doubt, is of the highest service to the plant; but as we see nearly similar hooks on many trees which are not climbers, and which, as there is reason to believe from the distribution of the thorn- bearing species in Africa and South America, serve as a defence against browsing quadrupeds, so the spikes on the palm may at first have been developed for this object, and subsequently have been improved and taken advantage of by the plant, as it underwent further modification and became a climber. The naked skin on the head of a vulture is generally considered as a direct adaptation for wallowing in putridity; and so it may be, or it may possibly be due to the direct action of putrid matter; but we should be very cautious in drawing any such inference, when we see that the skin on the head of the clean-feeding male turkey is likewise naked. The sutures in the skulls of young mammals have been advanced as a beautiful adaptation for aiding parturition, and no doubt they facilitate, or may be indispensable for this act; but as sutures occur in the skulls of young birds and reptiles, which have only to escape from a broken egg, we may infer that this structure has arisen from the laws of growth, and has been taken advantage of in the parturition of the higher animals.
We are profoundly ignorant of the cause of each slight variation or individual difference; and we are immediately made conscious of this by reflecting on the differences between the breeds of our domesticated animals in different countries, more especially in the less civilized countries, where there has been but little methodical selection. Animals kept by savages in different countries often have to struggle for their own subsistence, and are exposed to a certain extent to natural selection, and individuals with slightly different constitutions would succeed best under different climates. With cattle susceptibility to the attacks of flies is correlated with colour, as is the liability to be poisoned by certain plants; so that even colour would be thus subjected to the action of natural selection. Some observers are convinced that a damp climate affects the growth of the hair, and that with the hair the horns are correlated. Mountain breeds always differ from lowland breeds; and a mountainous country would probably affect the hind limbs from exercising them more, and possibly even the form of the pelvis; and then by the law of homologous variation, the front limbs and the head would probably be affected. The shape, also, of the pelvis might affect by pressure the shape of certain parts of the young in the womb. The laborious breathing necessary in high regions tends, as we have good reason to believe, to increase the size of the chest; and again correlation would come into play. The effects of lessened exercise, together with abundant food, on the whole organisation is probably still more important, and this, as H. von Nathusius has lately shown in his excellent Treatise, is apparently one chief cause of the great modification which the breeds of swine have undergone. But we are far too ignorant to speculate on the relative importance of the several known and unknown causes of variation; and I have made these remarks only to show that, if we are unable to account for the characteristic differences of our several domestic breeds, which nevertheless are generally admitted to have arisen through ordinary generation from one or a few parent-stocks, we ought not to lay too much stress on our ignorance of the precise cause of the slight analogous differences between true species.UTILITARIAN DOCTRINE, HOW FAR TRUE: BEAUTY, HOW ACQUIRED.
The foregoing remarks lead me to say a few words on the protest lately made by some naturalists against the utilitarian doctrine that every detail of structure has been produced for the good of its possessor. They believe that many structures have been created for the sake of beauty, to delight man or the Creator (but this latter point is beyond the scope of scientific discussion), or for the sake of mere variety, a view already discussed. Such doctrines, if true, would be absolutely fatal to my theory. I fully admit that many structures are now of no direct use to their possessors, and may never have been of any use to their progenitors; but this does not prove that they were formed solely for beauty or variety. No doubt the definite action of changed conditions, and the various causes of modifications, lately specified, have all produced an effect, probably a great effect, independently of any advantage thus gained. But a still more important consideration is that the chief part of the organisation of every living creature is due to inheritance; and consequently, though each being assuredly is well fitted for its place in nature, many structures have now no very close and direct relation to present habits of life. Thus, we can hardly believe that the webbed feet of the upland goose, or of the frigate- bird, are of special use to these birds; we cannot believe that the similar bones in the arm of the monkey, in the fore leg of the horse, in the wing of the bat, and in the flipper of the seal, are of special use to these animals. We may safely attribute these structures to inheritance. But webbed feet no doubt were as useful to the progenitor of the upland goose and of the frigate-bird, as they now are to the most aquatic of living birds. So we may believe that the progenitor of the seal did not possess a flipper, but a foot with five toes fitted for walking or grasping; and we may further venture to believe that the several bones in the limbs of the monkey, horse and bat, were originally developed, on the principle of utility, probably through the reduction of more numerous bones in the fin of some ancient fish-like progenitor of the whole class. It is scarcely possible to decide how much allowance ought to be made for such causes of change, as the definite action of external conditions, so-called spontaneous variations, and the complex laws of growth; but with these important exceptions, we may conclude that the structure of every living creature either now is, or was formerly, of some direct or indirect use to its possessor. With respect to the belief that organic beings have been created beautiful for the delight of man--a belief which it has been pronounced is subversive of my whole theory--I may first remark that the sense of beauty obviously depends on the nature of the mind, irrespective of any real quality in the admired object; and that the idea of what is beautiful, is not innate or unalterable. We see this, for instance, in the men of different races admiring an entirely different standard of beauty in their women. If beautiful objects had been created solely for man's gratification, it ought to be shown that before man appeared there was less beauty on the face of the earth than since he came on the stage. Were the beautiful volute and cone shells of the Eocene epoch, and the gracefully sculptured ammonites of the Secondary period, created that man might ages afterwards admire them in his cabinet? Few objects are more beautiful than the minute siliceous cases of the diatomaceae: were these created that they might be examined and admired under the higher powers of the microscope? The beauty in this latter case, and in many others, is apparently wholly due to symmetry of growth. Flowers rank among the most beautiful productions of nature; but they have been rendered conspicuous in contrast with the green leaves, and in consequence at the same time beautiful, so that they may be easily observed by insects. I have come to this conclusion from finding it an invariable rule that when a flower is fertilised by the wind it never has a gaily-coloured corolla. Several plants habitually produce two kinds of flowers; one kind open and coloured so as to attract insects; the other closed, not coloured, destitute of nectar, and never visited by insects. Hence, we may conclude that, if insects had not been developed on the face of the earth, our plants would not have been decked with beautiful flowers, but would have produced only such poor flowers as we see on our fir, oak, nut and ash trees, on grasses, spinach, docks and nettles, which are all fertilised through the agency of the wind. A similar line of argument holds good with fruits; that a ripe strawberry or cherry is as pleasing to the eye as to the palate--that the gaily-coloured fruit of the spindle-wood tree and the scarlet berries of the holly are beautiful objects--will be admitted by everyone. But this beauty serves merely as a guide to birds and beasts, in order that the fruit may be devoured and the matured seeds disseminated. I infer that this is the case from having as yet found no exception to the rule that seeds are always thus disseminated when embedded within a fruit of any kind (that is within a fleshy or pulpy envelope), if it be coloured of any brilliant tint, or rendered conspicuous by being white or black.
On the other hand, I willingly admit that a great number of male animals, as all our most gorgeous birds, some fishes, reptiles, and mammals, and a host of magnificently coloured butterflies, have been rendered beautiful for beauty's sake. But this has been effected through sexual selection, that is, by the more beautiful males having been continually preferred by the females, and not for the delight of man. So it is with the music of birds. We may infer from all this that a nearly similar taste for beautiful colours and for musical sounds runs through a large part of the animal kingdom. When the female is as beautifully coloured as the male, which is not rarely the case with birds and butterflies, the cause apparently lies in the colours acquired through sexual selection having been transmitted to both sexes, instead of to the males alone. How the sense of beauty in its simplest form--that is, the reception of a peculiar kind of pleasure from certain colours, forms and sounds--was first developed in the mind of man and of the lower animals, is a very obscure subject. The same sort of difficulty is presented if we enquire how it is that certain flavours and odours give pleasure, and others displeasure. Habit in all these cases appears to have come to a certain extent into play; but there must be some fundamental cause in the constitution of the nervous system in each species.
Natural selection cannot possibly produce any modification in a species exclusively for the good of another species; though throughout nature one species incessantly takes advantage of, and profits by the structures of others. But natural selection can and does often produce structures for the direct injury of other animals, as we see in the fang of the adder, and in the ovipositor of the ichneumon, by which its eggs are deposited in the living bodies of other insects. If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection. Although many statements may be found in works on natural history to this effect, I cannot find even one which seems to me of any weight. It is admitted that the rattlesnake has a poison-fang for its own defence and for the destruction of its prey; but some authors suppose that at the same time it is furnished with a rattle for its own injury, namely, to warn its prey. I would almost as soon believe that the cat curls the end of its tail when preparing to spring, in order to warn the doomed mouse. It is a much more probable view that the rattlesnake uses its rattle, the cobra expands its frill and the puff-adder swells while hissing so loudly and harshly, in order to alarm the many birds and beasts which are known to attack even the most venomous species. Snakes act on the same principle which makes the hen ruffle her feathers and expand her wings when a dog approaches her chickens. But I have not space here to enlarge on the many ways by which animals endeavour to frighten away their enemies.
Natural selection will never produce in a being any structure more injurious than beneficial to that being, for natural selection acts solely by and for the good of each. No organ will be formed, as Paley has remarked, for the purpose of causing pain or for doing an injury to its possessor. If a fair balance be struck between the good and evil caused by each part, each will be found on the whole advantageous. After the lapse of time, under changing conditions of life, if any part comes to be injurious, it will be modified; or if it be not so, the being will become extinct, as myriads have become extinct.
Natural selection tends only to make each organic being as perfect as, or slightly more perfect than the other inhabitants of the same country with which it comes into competition. And we see that this is the standard of perfection attained under nature. The endemic productions of New Zealand, for instance, are perfect, one compared with another; but they are now rapidly yielding before the advancing legions of plants and animals introduced from Europe. Natural selection will not produce absolute perfection, nor do we always meet, as far as we can judge, with this high standard under nature. The correction for the aberration of light is said by Muller not to be perfect even in that most perfect organ, the human eye. Helmholtz, whose judgment no one will dispute, after describing in the strongest terms the wonderful powers of the human eye, adds these remarkable words: "That which we have discovered in the way of inexactness and imperfection in the optical machine and in the image on the retina, is as nothing in comparison with the incongruities which we have just come across in the domain of the sensations. One might say that nature has taken delight in accumulating contradictions in order to remove all foundation from the theory of a pre-existing harmony between the external and internal worlds." If our reason leads us to admire with enthusiasm a multitude of inimitable contrivances in nature, this same reason tells us, though we may easily err on both sides, that some other contrivances are less perfect. Can we consider the sting of the bee as perfect, which, when used against many kinds of enemies, cannot be withdrawn, owing to the backward serratures, and thus inevitably causes the death of the insect by tearing out its viscera?
If we look at the sting of the bee, as having existed in a remote progenitor, as a boring and serrated instrument, like that in so many members of the same great order, and that it has since been modified but not perfected for its present purpose, with the poison originally adapted for some other object, such as to produce galls, since intensified, we can perhaps understand how it is that the use of the sting should so often cause the insect's own death: for if on the whole the power of stinging be useful to the social community, it will fulfil all the requirements of natural selection, though it may cause the death of some few members. If we admire the truly wonderful power of scent by which the males of many insects find their females, can we admire the production for this single purpose of thousands of drones, which are utterly useless to the community for any other purpose, and which are ultimately slaughtered by their industrious and sterile sisters? It may be difficult, but we ought to admire the savage instinctive hatred of the queen-bee, which urges her to destroy the young queens, her daughters, as soon as they are born, or to perish herself in the combat; for undoubtedly this is for the good of the community; and maternal love or maternal hatred, though the latter fortunately is most rare, is all the same to the inexorable principles of natural selection. If we admire the several ingenious contrivances by which orchids and many other plants are fertilised through insect agency, can we consider as equally perfect the elaboration of dense clouds of pollen by our firtrees, so that a few granules may be wafted by chance on to the ovules?SUMMARY: THE LAW OF UNITY OF TYPE AND OF THE CONDITIONS OF EXISTENCE EMBRACED BY THE THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION.
We have in this chapter discussed some of the difficulties and objections which may be urged against the theory. Many of them are serious; but I think that in the discussion light has been thrown on several facts, which on the belief of independent acts of creation are utterly obscure. We have seen that species at any one period are not indefinitely variable, and are not linked together by a multitude of intermediate gradations, partly because the process of natural selection is always very slow, and at any one time acts only on a few forms; and partly because the very process of natural selection implies the continual supplanting and extinction of preceding and intermediate gradations. Closely allied species, now living on a continuous area, must often have been formed when the area was not continuous, and when the conditions of life did not insensibly graduate away from one part to another. When two varieties are formed in two districts of a continuous area, an intermediate variety will often be formed, fitted for an intermediate zone; but from reasons assigned, the intermediate variety will usually exist in lesser numbers than the two forms which it connects; consequently the two latter, during the course of further modification, from existing in greater numbers, will have a great advantage over the less numerous intermediate variety, and will thus generally succeed in supplanting and exterminating it.
We have seen in this chapter how cautious we should be in concluding that the most different habits of life could not graduate into each other; that a bat, for instance, could not have been formed by natural selection from an animal which at first only glided through the air.
We have seen that a species under new conditions of life may change its habits, or it may have diversified habits, with some very unlike those of its nearest congeners. Hence we can understand, bearing in mind that each organic being is trying to live wherever it can live, how it has arisen that there are upland geese with webbed feet, ground woodpeckers, diving thrushes, and petrels with the habits of auks.
Although the belief that an organ so perfect as the eye could have been formed by natural selection, is enough to stagger any one; yet in the case of any organ, if we know of a long series of gradations in complexity, each good for its possessor, then under changing conditions of life, there is no logical impossibility in the acquirement of any conceivable degree of perfection through natural selection. In the cases in which we know of no intermediate or transitional states, we should be extremely cautious in concluding that none can have existed, for the metamorphoses of many organs show what wonderful changes in function are at least possible. For instance, a swim-bladder has apparently been converted into an air-breathing lung. The same organ having performed simultaneously very different functions, and then having been in part or in whole specialised for one function; and two distinct organs having performed at the same time the same function, the one having been perfected whilst aided by the other, must often have largely facilitated transitions.
We have seen that in two beings widely remote from each other in the natural scale, organs serving for the same purpose and in external appearance closely similar may have been separately and independently formed; but when such organs are closely examined, essential differences in their structure can almost always be detected; and this naturally follows from the principle of natural selection. On the other hand, the common rule throughout nature is infinite diversity of structure for gaining the same end; and this again naturally follows from the same great principle.
In many cases we are far too ignorant to be enabled to assert that a part or organ is so unimportant for the welfare of a species, that modifications in its structure could not have been slowly accumulated by means of natural selection. In many other cases, modifications are probably the direct result of the laws of variation or of growth, independently of any good having been thus gained. But even such structures have often, as we may feel assured, been subsequently taken advantage of, and still further modified, for the good of species under new conditions of life. We may, also, believe that a part formerly of high importance has frequently been retained (as the tail of an aquatic animal by its terrestrial descendants), though it has become of such small importance that it could not, in its present state, have been acquired by means of natural selection.
Natural selection can produce nothing in one species for the exclusive good or injury of another; though it may well produce parts, organs, and excretions highly useful or even indispensable, or highly injurious to another species, but in all cases at the same time useful to the possessor. In each well-stocked country natural selection acts through the competition of the inhabitants and consequently leads to success in the battle for life, only in accordance with the standard of that particular country. Hence the inhabitants of one country, generally the smaller one, often yield to the inhabitants of another and generally the larger country. For in the larger country there will have existed more individuals, and more diversified forms, and the competition will have been severer, and thus the standard of perfection will have been rendered higher. Natural selection will not necessarily lead to absolute perfection; nor, as far as we can judge by our limited faculties, can absolute perfection be everywhere predicated.
On the theory of natural selection we can clearly understand the full meaning of that old canon in natural history, "Natura non facit saltum." This canon, if we look to the present inhabitants alone of the world, is not strictly correct; but if we include all those of past times, whether known or unknown, it must on this theory be strictly true.
It is generally acknowledged that all organic beings have been formed on two great laws
-Unity of Type, and the Conditions of Existence. By unity of type is meant that fundamental agreement in structure which we see in organic beings of the same class, and which is quite independent of their habits of life. On my theory, unity of type is explained by unity of descent. The expression of conditions of existence, so often insisted on by the illustrious Cuvier, is fully embraced by the principle of natural selection. For natural selection acts by either now adapting the varying parts of each being to its organic and inorganic conditions of life; or by having adapted them during past periods of time: the adaptations being aided in many cases by the increased use or disuse of parts, being affected by the direct action of external conditions of life, and subjected in all cases to the several laws of growth and variation. Hence, in fact, the law of the Conditions of Existence is the higher law; as it includes, through the inheritance of former variations and adaptations, that of Unity of Type.