M Database Inspector (cheetah)
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|OriginOfSpecies - 475 Rows|
|06 - Difficutiles in Theory||06-09 - Cases of Difficulty||50||
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 humble-bees 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 pollen-mass 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 retaining the pollen, fertilisation is effected.
|06 - Difficutiles in Theory||06-11 - Organs of Small Importance||50||
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 skull 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.
|06 - Difficutiles in Theory||06-12 - Organs not in all Cases Absolutely Perfect||50||
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?
|06 - Difficutiles in Theory||06-13 - Summary: The Law of Unity of Type and of the Conditions of Existence Embraced by the Theory of Natural Selection||50||
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.