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05 - Laws of Variation 05-08 - Parts Developed in an Unusual Manner are Highly Variable 40 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 have 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 beaks of tumblers, in the beaks and wattle of carriers, in the carriage and tail of fantails, &c., these being the points now mainly attended to by English fanciers.

Tumbler Pigeon
Tumbler Pigeon

English Carrier Pigeon
English Carrier Pigeon

Fantail Pigeon
Fantail Pigeon


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.

Short Faced Tumbler Pigeon
Short Faced Tumbler Pigeon


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 short-faced strain.

But as long as selection is rapidly going on, much variability in the parts undergoing modification may always be expected.
01 - Variations Under Domestication 01-05 -Character of Domestic Varieties 10 When we look to the hereditary varieties or races of our domestic animals and plants, and compare them with closely allied species, we generally perceive in each domestic race, as already remarked, less uniformity of character than in true species.
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Domestic races often have a somewhat monstrous character; by which I mean, that, although differing from each other, and from other species of the same genus, in several trifling respects, they often differ in an extreme degree in some one part, both when compared one with another, and more especially when compared with the species under nature to which they are nearest allied. With these exceptions (and with that of the perfect fertility of varieties when crossed,- a subject hereafter to be discussed), domestic races of the same species differ from each other in the same manner as do the closely-allied species of the same genus in a state of nature, but the differences in most cases are less in degree.

This must be admitted as true, for the domestic races of many animals and plants have been ranked by some competent judges as the descendants of aboriginally distinct species, and by other competent judges as mere varieties.
01 - Variations Under Domestication 01-01 - Causes of Variability 10 WHEN we compare the individuals of the same variety or sub-variety of our older cultivated plants and animals, one of the first points which strikes us is, that they generally differ more from each other than do the individuals of any one species or variety in a state of nature.
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And if we reflect on the vast diversity of the plants and animals which have been cultivated, and which have varied during all ages under the most different climates and treatment, we are driven to conclude that this great variability is due to our domestic productions having been raised under conditions of life not so uniform as, and somewhat different from, those to which the parent species had been exposed under nature.

There is, also, some probability in the view propounded by Andrew Knight, that this variability may be partly connected with excess of food.
Thomas Andrew Knight
Thomas Andrew Knight


It seems clear that organic beings must be exposed during several generations to new conditions to cause any great amount of variation; and that, when the organization has once begun to vary, it generally continues varying for many generations.

No case is on record of a variable organism ceasing to vary under cultivation.

Our oldest cultivated plants, such as wheat, still yield new varieties: our oldest, domesticated animals are still capable of rapid improvement or modification.

durum
durum

Angus
Angus
14 - Recapitulation and Conclusion 14-05 - Effects of its adoption on the study of Natural history 10 When the views entertained in this volume on the origin of species, or when analogous views are generally admitted, we can dimly foresee that there will be a considerable revolution in natural history.

Systematists will be able to pursue their labours as at present; but they will not be incessantly haunted by the shadowy doubt whether this or that form be in essence a species.

This I feel sure, and I speak after experience, will be no slight relief.

The endless disputes whether or not some fifty species of British brambles are true species will cease.
bramble
bramble


Systematists will have only to decide (not that this will be easy) whether any form be sufficiently constant and distinct from other forms, to be capable of definition; and if definable, whether the differences be sufficiently important to deserve a specific name.

This latter point will become a far more essential consideration than it is at present; for differences, however slight, between any two forms, if not blended by intermediate gradations, are looked at by most naturalists as sufficient to raise both forms to the rank of species.

Hereafter we shall be compelled to acknowledge that the only distinction between species and well-marked varieties is, that the latter are known, or believed, to be connected at the present day by intermediate gradations, whereas species were formerly thus connected.

Hence, without quite rejecting the consideration of the present existence of intermediate gradations between any two forms, we shall be led to weigh more carefully and to value higher the actual amount of difference between them.