06 - Difficutiles in Theory
06-07 - Organs of extreme Perfection
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 a 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 articulate class.
12 - Geographical Distribution -- continued
12-50 - On colonisation from the nearest source with subsequent modification
In the Galapagos Archipelago, many even of the birds, though so well adapted for flying from island to island, are distinct on each; thus there are three closely-allied species of mocking-thrush, each confined to its own island.
Now let us suppose the mocking-thrush of Chatham Island to be blown to Charles Island, which has its own mocking-thrush: why should it succeed in establishing itself there? We may safely infer that Charles Island is well stocked with its own species, for annually more eggs are laid there than can possibly be reared; and we may infer that the mocking-thrush peculiar to Charles Island is at least as well fitted for its home as is the species peculiar to Chatham Island.
Sir C. Lyell and Mr. Wollaston have communicated to me a remarkable fact bearing on this subject; namely, that Madeira and the adjoining islet of Porto Santo possess many distinct but representative land-shells, some of which live in crevices of stone; and although large quantities of stone are annually transported from Porto Santo to Madeira, yet this latter island has not become colonised by the Porto Santo species: nevertheless both islands have been colonised by some European land-shells, which no doubt had some advantage over the indigenous species.
|Sir Charles Lyell|
06 - Difficutiles in Theory
06-09 - Cases of Difficulty
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 arms, 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.
06 - Difficutiles in Theory
06-11 - Organs of Small Importance
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
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.