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04 - Natural Selection 04-01 - Natural Selection 10 How will the struggle for existence, briefly discussed in the last chapter, act in regard to variation?

Can the principle of selection, which we have seen is so potent in the hands of man, apply under nature?

I think we shall see that it can act most efficiently.

Let the endless number of slight variations and individual differences occurring in our domestic productions, and, in a lesser degree, in those under nature, be borne in mind; as well as the strength of the hereditary tendency.

Under domestication, it may be truly said that the whole organisation becomes in some degree plastic.

clay
clay


But the variability, which we almost universally meet with in our domestic productions, is not directly produced, as Hooker and Asa Gray have well remarked, by man; he can neither originate varieties, nor prevent their occurrence; he can preserve and accumulate such as do occur.

Unintentionally he exposes organic beings to new and changing conditions of life, and variability ensues; but similar changes of conditions might and do occur under nature.

Let it also be borne in mind how infinitely complex and close-fitting are the mutual relations of all organic beings to each other and to their physical conditions of life; and consequently what infinitely varied diversities of structure might be of use to each being under changing conditions of life.

Can it, then, be thought improbable, seeing that variations useful to man have undoubtedly occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should occur in the course of many successive generations?

If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind?

On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed.

This preservation of favourable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have called Natural Selection.
03 - Struggle for Existence 03-06 - Competition Universal 10 Eggs or very young animals seem generally to suffer most, but this is not invariably the case. With plants there is a vast destruction of seeds, but, from some observations which I have made, it appears that the seedlings suffer most from germinating in ground already thickly stocked with other plants.

Seedlings, also, are destroyed in vast numbers by various enemies; for instance, on a piece of ground three feet long and two wide, dug and cleared, and where there could be no choking from other plants, I marked all the seedlings of our native weeds as they came up, and out of 357 no less than 295 were destroyed, chiefly by slugs and insects.

seedling
seedling

slug
slug

insect
insect


If turf which has long been mown, and the case would be the same with turf closely browsed by quadrupeds, be let to grow, the more vigorous plants gradually kill the less vigorous, though fully grown plants; thus out of twenty species growing on a little plot of mown turf (three feet by four) nine species perished, from the other species being allowed to grow up freely.

quadruped
quadruped

zebra
zebra
04 - Natural Selection 04-08 - On the Intercrossing of Individuals 10 I must here introduce a short digression. In the case of animals and plants with separated sexes, it is of course obvious that two individuals must always (with the exception of the curious and not well-understood cases of parthenogenesis) unite for each birth; but in the case of hermaphrodites this is far from obvious.

snail
snail


Nevertheless there is reason to believe that with all hermaphrodites two individuals, either occasionally or habitually, concur for the reproduction of their kind.

This view was long ago doubtfully suggested by Sprengel, Knight and Kolreuter. We shall presently see its importance; but I must here treat the subject with extreme brevity, though I have the materials prepared for an ample discussion.

All vertebrate animals, all insects, and some other large groups of animals, pair for each birth. Modern research has much diminished the number of supposed hermaphrodites, and of real hermaphrodites a large number pair; that is, two individuals regularly unite for reproduction, which is all that concerns us.

But still there are many hermaphrodite animals which certainly do not habitually pair, and a vast majority of plants are hermaphrodites.

What reason, it may be asked, is there for supposing in these cases that two individuals ever concur in reproduction?

As it is impossible here to enter on details, I must trust to some general considerations alone.
03 - Struggle for Existence 03-12 - Summary 10 It is good thus to try in imagination to give to any one species an advantage over another.

Probably in no single instance should we know what to do.

This ought to convince us of our ignorance on the mutual relations of all organic beings; a conviction as necessary as it is difficult to acquire.