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OriginOfSpecies - 475 Rows
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subject varchar(80) 14 Column Stats
title varchar(250) 139 Column Stats
ordinal int(11) 30 Column Stats
description text 474 Column Stats

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05 - Laws of Variation 05-01 - Effects of External Conditions 20 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.

Augustus Addison Gould
Augustus Addison Gould





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 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 directions; and it is this latter agency which answers to the survival of the fittest under nature.
05 - Laws of Variation 05-06 - False Correlation 20 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.

Alphonse de Candolle
Alphonse de Candolle

winged thistle seed
winged thistle seed
05 - Laws of Variation 05-13 - Summary 20 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 amongst 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 any extraordinarily-developed organ has become the parent of many modified descendants- which on our view must be a very slow process, requiring 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.
05 - Laws of Variation 05-05 - Compensation and Economy of Growth 20 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 this 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 every part of the organization.

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 an useless structure.

I can only thus understand a fact with which I was much struck when examining cirripedes, and of which many analogous 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.