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|13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or||13-03 - Rules and difficulties in classification, explained on the theory of descent with modification||20||
These resemblances, though so intimately connected with the whole life of the being, are ranked as merely `adaptive or analogical characters;' but to the consideration of these resemblances we shall have to recur.
It may even be given as a general rule, that the less any part of the organisation is concerned with special habits, the more important it becomes for classification.
As an instance: Owen, in speaking of the dugong, says, `The generative organs being those which are most remotely related to the habits and food of an animal, I have always regarded as affording very clear indications of its true affinities.
We are least likely in the modifications of these organs to mistake a merely adaptive for an essential character.' So with plants, how remarkable it is that the organs of vegetation, on which their whole life depends, are of little signification, excepting in the first main divisions; whereas the organs of reproduction, with their product the seed, are of paramount importance!
We must not, therefore, in classifying, trust to resemblances in parts of the organisation, however important they may be for the welfare of the being in relation to the outer world.
|12 - Geographical Distribution -- continued||12-60 - Summary of the last and present chapters||20||
We can thus understand the localisation of sub-genera, genera, and families; and how it is that under different latitudes, for instance in South America, the inhabitants of the plains and mountains, of the forests, marshes, and deserts, are in so mysterious a manner linked together by affinity, and are likewise linked to the extinct beings which formerly inhabited the same continent.
Bearing in mind that the mutual relations of organism to organism are of the highest importance, we can see why two areas having nearly the same physical conditions should often be inhabited by very different forms of life; for according to the length of time which has elapsed since new inhabitants entered one region; according to the nature of the communication which allowed certain forms and not others to enter, either in greater or lesser numbers; according or not, as those which entered happened to come in more or less direct competition with each other and with the aborigines; and according as the immigrants were capable of varying more or less rapidly, there would ensue in different regions, independently of their physical conditions, infinitely diversified conditions of life, there would be an almost endless amount of organic action and reaction, and we should find, as we do find, some groups of beings greatly, and some only slightly modified, some developed in great force, some existing in scanty numbers in the different great geographical provinces of the world.
On these same principles, we can understand, as I have endeavoured to show, why oceanic islands should have few inhabitants, but of these a great number should be endemic or peculiar; and why, in relation to the means of migration, one group of beings, even within the same class, should have all its species endemic, and another group should have all its species common to other quarters of the world.
We can see why whole groups of organisms, as batrachians and terrestrial mammals, should be absent from oceanic islands, whilst the most isolated islands possess their own peculiar species of aerial mammals or bats.
|02 - Variations Under Nature||02-05 - Species of the Larger Genera in each Country vary more frequently than the Species of the Smaller Genera||20||
On the other hand, if we look at each species as a special act of creation, there is no apparent reason why more varieties should occur in a group having many species, than in one having few.
To test the truth of this anticipation I have arranged the plants of twelve countries, and the coleopterous insects of two districts, into two nearly equal masses, the species of the larger genera on one side, and those of the smaller genera on the other side, and it has invariably proved to be the case that a larger proportion of the species on the side of the larger genera presented varieties, than on the side of the smaller genera.
Moreover, the species of the large genera which present any varieties, invariably present a larger average number of varieties than do the species of the small genera.
Both these results follow when another division is made, and when all the least genera, with from only one to four species, are altogether excluded from the tables.
These facts are of plain signification on the view that species are only strongly-marked and permanent varieties; for wherever many species of the same genus have been formed, or where, if we may use the expression, the manufactory of species has been active, we ought generally to find the manufactory still in action, more especially as we have every reason to believe the process of manufacturing new species to be a slow one.
And this certainly holds true, if varieties be looked at as incipient species; for my tables clearly show as a general rule that, wherever many species of a genus have been formed, the species of that genus present a number of varieties, that is of incipient species, beyond the average.
It is not that all large genera are now varying much, and are thus increasing in the number of their species, or that no small genera are now varying and increasing; for if this had been so, it would have been fatal to my theory; inasmuch as geology plainly tells us that small genera have in the lapse of time often increased greatly in size; and that large genera have often come to their maxima, declined, and disappeared.
All that we want to show is, that when many species of a genus have been formed, on an average many are still forming; and this certainly holds good.
|14 - Recapitulation and Conclusion||14-06 - Concluding remarks||20||
As all the living forms of life are the lineal descendants of those which lived long before the Silurian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken, and that no cataclysm has desolated the whole world.
Hence we may look with some confidence to a secure future of equally inappreciable length.
And as natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.
It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.
These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms.
Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.