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|13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or||13-06 - Analogical or adaptive characters||10||
As members of distinct classes have often been adapted by successive slight modifications to live under nearly similar circumstances, to inhabit for instance the three elements of land, air, and water, we can perhaps understand how it is that a numerical parallelism has sometimes been observed between the sub-groups in distinct classes.
A naturalist, struck by a parallelism of this nature in any one class, by arbitrarily raising or sinking the value of the groups in other classes (and all our experience shows that this valuation has hitherto been arbitrary), could easily extend the parallelism over a wide range; and thus the septenary, quinary, quaternary, and ternary classifications have probably arisen.
As the modified descendants of dominant species, belonging to the larger genera, tend to inherit the advantages, which made the groups to which they belong large and their parents dominant, they are almost sure to spread widely, and to seize on more and more places in the economy of nature.
The larger and more dominant groups thus tend to go on increasing in size; and they consequently supplant many smaller and feebler groups.
Thus we can account for the fact that all organisms, recent and extinct, are included under a few great orders, under still fewer classes, and all in one great natural system.
As showing how few the higher groups are in number, and how widely spread they are throughout the world, the fact is striking, that the discovery of Australia has not added a single insect belonging to a new order; and that in the vegetable kingdom, as I learn from Dr. Hooker, it has added only two or three orders of small size.
|13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or||13-07 - Affinities, general, complex and radiating||10||
Mr. Waterhouse has remarked that, when a member belonging to one group of animals exhibits an affinity to a quite distinct group, this affinity in most cases is general and not special: thus, according to Mr. Waterhouse, of all Rodents, the bizcacha is most nearly related to Marsupials; but in the points in which it approaches this order, its relations are general, and not to any one marsupial species more than to another.
As the points of affinity of the bizcacha to Marsupials are believed to be real and not merely adaptive, they are due on my theory to inheritance in common.
Therefore we must suppose either that all Rodents, including the bizcacha, branched off from some very ancient Marsupial, which will have had a character in some degree intermediate with respect to all existing Marsupials; or that both Rodents and Marsupials branched off from a common progenitor, and that both groups have since undergone much modification in divergent directions.
On either view we may suppose that the bizcacha has retained, by inheritance, more of the character of its ancient progenitor than have other Rodents; and therefore it will not be specially related to any one existing Marsupial, but indirectly to all or nearly all Marsupials, from having partially retained the character of their common progenitor, or of an early member of the group.
On the other hand, of all Marsupials, as Mr. Waterhouse has remarked, the phascolomys resembles most nearly, not any one species, but the general order of Rodents.
In this case, however, it may be strongly suspected that the resemblance is only analogical, owing to the phascolomys having become adapted to habits like those of a Rodent.
|13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or||13-08 - Extinction separates and defines groups||10||
Extinction, as we have seen in the fourth chapter, has played an important part in defining and widening the intervals between the several groups in each class.
We may thus account even for the distinctness of whole classes from each other for instance, of birds from all other vertebrate animals by the belief that many ancient forms of life have been utterly lost, through which the early progenitors of birds were formerly connected with the early progenitors of the other vertebrate classes.
|13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or||13-09 - MORPHOLOGY, between members of the same class, between parts of the same individual||10||
We have seen that the members of the same class, independently of their habits of life, resemble each other in the general plan of their organisation.
This resemblance is often expressed by the term `unity of type;' or by saying that the several parts and organs in the different species of the class are homologous.
The whole subject is included under the general name of Morphology.
This is the most interesting department of natural history, and may be said to be its very soul.
What can be more curious than that the hand of a man, formed for grasping, that of a mole for digging, the leg of the horse, the paddle of the porpoise, and the wing of the bat, should all be constructed on the same pattern, and should include the same bones, in the same relative positions? Geoffroy St Hilaire has insisted strongly on the high importance of relative connexion in homologous organs: the parts may change to almost any extent in form and size, and yet they always remain connected together in the same order.
We never find, for instance, the bones of the arm and forearm, or of the thigh and leg, transposed.
Hence the same names can be given to the homologous bones in widely different animals.
We see the same great law in the construction of the mouths of insects: what can be more different than the immensely long spiral proboscis of a sphinx-moth, the curious folded one of a bee or bug, and the great jaws of a beetle? yet all these organs, serving for such different purposes, are formed by infinitely numerous modifications of an upper lip, mandibles, and two pairs of maxillae.
Analogous laws govern the construction of the mouths and limbs of crustaceans.
So it is with the flowers of plants.
Nothing can be more hopeless than to attempt to explain this similarity of pattern in members of the same class, by utility or by the doctrine of final causes.
The hopelessness of the attempt has been expressly admitted by Owen in his most interesting work on the `Nature of Limbs.' On the ordinary view of the independent creation of each being, we can only say that so it is; that it has so pleased the Creator to construct each animal and plant.
The explanation is manifest on the theory of the natural selection of successive slight modifications, each modification being profitable in some way to the modified form, but often affecting by correlation of growth other parts of the organisation.
In changes of this nature, there will be little or no tendency to modify the original pattern, or to transpose parts.
The bones of a limb might be shortened and widened to any extent, and become gradually enveloped in thick membrane, so as to serve as a fin; or a webbed foot might have all its bones, or certain bones, lengthened to any extent, and the membrane connecting them increased to any extent, so as to serve as a wing: yet in all this great amount of modification there will be no tendency to alter the framework of bones or the relative connexion of the several parts.
If we suppose that the ancient progenitor, the archetype as it may be called, of all mammals, had its limbs constructed on the existing general pattern, for whatever purpose they served, we can at once perceive the plain signification of the homologous construction of the limbs throughout the whole class.
So with the mouths of insects, we have only to suppose that their common progenitor had an upper lip, mandibles, and two pair of maxillae, these parts being perhaps very simple in form; and then natural selection will account for the infinite diversity in structure and function of the mouths of insects.
Nevertheless, it is conceivable that the general pattern of an organ might become so much obscured as to be finally lost, by the atrophy and ultimately by the complete abortion of certain parts, by the soldering together of other parts, and by the doubling or multiplication of others, variations which we know to be within the limits of possibility.
In the paddles of the extinct gigantic sea-lizards, and in the mouths of certain suctorial crustaceans, the general pattern seems to have been thus to a certain extent obscured.
There is another and equally curious branch of the present subject; namely, the comparison not of the same part in different members of a class, but of the different parts or organs in the same individual.
Most physiologists believe that the bones of the skull are homologous with that is correspond in number and in relative connexion with the elemental parts of a certain number of vertebrae.
The anterior and posterior limbs in each member of the vertebrate and articulate classes are plainly homologous.
We see the same law in comparing the wonderfully complex jaws and legs in crustaceans.
It is familiar to almost every one, that in a flower the relative position of the sepals, petals, stamens, and pistils, as well as their intimate structure, are intelligible in the view that they consist of metamorphosed leaves, arranged in a spire.
In monstrous plants, we often get direct evidence of the possibility of one organ being transformed into another; and we can actually see in embryonic crustaceans and in many other animals, and in flowers, that organs which when mature become extremely different, are at an early stage of growth exactly alike.
How inexplicable are these facts on the ordinary view of creation! Why should the brain be enclosed in a box composed of such numerous and such extraordinarily shaped pieces of bone? As Owen has remarked, the benefit derived from the yielding of the separate pieces in the act of parturition of mammals, will by no means explain the same construction in the skulls of birds.
Why should similar bones have been created in the formation of the wing and leg of a bat, used as they are for such totally different purposes? Why should one crustacean, which has an extremely complex mouth formed of many parts, consequently always have fewer legs; or conversely, those with many legs have simpler mouths? Why should the sepals, petals, stamens, and pistils in any individual flower, though fitted for such widely different purposes, be all constructed on the same pattern ?
On the theory of natural selection, we can satisfactorily answer these questions.
In the vertebrata, we see a series of internal vertebrae bearing certain processes and appendages; in the articulata, we see the body divided into a series of segments, bearing external appendages; and in flowering plants, we see a series of successive spiral whorls of leaves.
An indefinite repetition of the same part or organ is the common characteristic (as Owen has observed) of all low or little-modified forms; therefore we may readily believe that the unknown progenitor of the vertebrata possessed many vertebrae; the unknown progenitor of the articulata, many segments; and the unknown progenitor of flowering plants, many spiral whorls of leaves.
We have formerly seen that parts many times repeated are eminently liable to vary in number and structure; consequently it is quite probable that natural selection, during a long-continued course of modification, should have seized on a certain number of the primordially similar elements, many times repeated, and have adapted them to the most diverse purposes.
And as the whole amount of modification will have been effected by slight successive steps, we need not wonder at discovering in such parts or organs, a certain degree of fundamental resemblance, retained by the strong principle of inheritance.
In the great class of molluscs, though we can homologise the parts of one species with those of another and distinct species, we can indicate but few serial homologies; that is, we are seldom enabled to say that one part or organ is homologous with another in the same individual.
And we can understand this fact; for in molluscs, even in the lowest members of the class, we do not find nearly so much indefinite repetition of any one part, as we find in the other great classes of the animal and vegetable kingdoms.
Naturalists frequently speak of the skull as formed of metamorphosed vertebrae: the jaws of crabs as metamorphosed legs; the stamens and pistils of flowers as metamorphosed leaves; but it would in these cases probably be more correct, as Professor Huxley has remarked, to speak of both skull and vertebrae, both jaws and legs, &c., as having been metamorphosed, not one from the other, but from some common element.
Naturalists, however, use such language only in a metaphorical sense: they are far from meaning that during a long course of descent, primordial organs of any kind vertebrae in the one case and legs in the other have actually been modified into skulls or jaws.
Yet so strong is the appearance of a modification of this nature having occurred, that naturalists can hardly avoid employing language having this plain signification.
On my view these terms may be used literally; and the wonderful fact of the jaws, for instance, of a crab retaining numerous characters, which they would probably have retained through inheritance, if they had really been metamorphosed during a long course of descent from true legs, or from some simple appendage, is explained.