M Database Inspector (cheetah)
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|05 - Laws of Variation||05-02 - Use and Disuse of Parts, combined with Natural Selection, Organs of Flight and Vision||10||
From the facts alluded to in the first chapter, I think there can be no doubt that use in our domestic animals has strengthened and enlarged certain parts, and disuse diminished them; and that such modifications are inherited.
Under free nature, we have no standard of comparison, by which to judge of the effects of long-continued use or disuse, for we know not the parent-forms; but many animals possess structures which can be best explained by the effects of disuse.
As Professor Owen has remarked, there is no greater anomaly in nature than a bird that cannot fly; yet there are several in this state.
The logger-headed duck of South America can only flap along the surface of the water, and has its wings in nearly the same condition as the domestic Aylesbury duck: it is a remarkable fact that the young birds, according to Mr. Cunningham, can fly, while the adults have lost this power.
As the larger ground-feeding birds seldom take flight except to escape danger, it is probable that the nearly wingless condition of several birds, now inhabiting or which lately inhabited several oceanic islands, tenanted by no beast of prey, has been caused by disuse.
The ostrich indeed inhabits continents, and is exposed to danger from which it cannot escape by flight, but it can defend itself by kicking its enemies, as efficiently as many quadrupeds.
We may believe that the progenitor of the ostrich genus had habits like those of the bustard, and that, as the size and weight of its body were increased during successive generations, its legs were used more, and its wings less, until they became incapable of flight.
|05 - Laws of Variation||05-09 - Specific Characters more Variable than Generic Characters||10||
The principle discussed under the last heading may be applied to our present subject. It is notorious that specific characters are more variable than generic.
To explain by a simple example what is meant: if in a large genus of plants some species had blue flowers and some had red, the colour would be only a specific character, and no one would be surprised at one of the blue species varying into red, or conversely; but if all the species had blue flowers, the colour would become a generic character, and its variation would be a more unusual circumstance.
I have chosen this example because the explanation which most naturalists would advance is not here applicable, namely, that specific characters are more variable than generic, because they are taken from parts of less physiological importance than those commonly used for classing genera.
I believe this explanation is partly, yet only indirectly, true; I shall, however, have to return to this point in the chapter on Classification.
It would be almost superfluous to adduce evidence in support of the statement, that ordinary specific characters are more variable than generic; but with respect to important characters I have repeatedly noticed in works on natural history, that when an author remarks with surprise that some important organ or part, which is generally very constant throughout a large group of species, differs considerably in closely-allied species, it is often variable in the individuals of the same species.
And this fact shows that a character, which is generally of generic value, when it sinks in value and becomes only of specific value, often becomes variable, though its physiological importance may remain the same.
Something of the same kind applies to monstrosities: at least Isidore Geoffroy St-Hilaire apparently entertains no doubt that the more an organ normally differs in the different species of the same group, the more subject it is to anomalies in the individuals.
|05 - Laws of Variation||05-11 - Species of the Same Genus Vary in an Analogous Manner||10||
Distinct Species present analagous Variations, so that a Variety of one Species often assumes a Character proper to an Allied Species, or reverts to some of the Characters of an early Progenitor.- These propositions will be most readily understood by looking to our domestic races.
The most distinct breeds of the pigeon, in countries widely apart, present sub-varieties with reversed feathers on the head, and with feathers on the feet,- characters not possessed by the aboriginal rock-pigeon; these then are analogous variations in two or more distinct races.
The frequent presence of fourteen or even sixteen tail-feathers in the pouter may be considered as a variation representing the normal structure of another race, the fan-tail.
I presume that no one will doubt that all such analogous variations are due to the several races of the pigeon having inherited from a common parent the same constitution and tendency to variation, when acted on by similar unknown influences.
In the vegetable kingdom we have a case of analogous variation, in the enlarged stems, or as commonly called roots, of the Swedish turnip and Rutabaga, plants which several botanists rank as varieties produced by cultivation from a common parent: if this be not so, the case will then be one of analogous variation in two so-called distinct species; and to these a third may be added, namely, the common turnip.
According to the ordinary view of each species having been independently created, we should have to attribute this similarity in the enlarged stems of these three plants, not to the vera causa of community of descent, and a consequent tendency to vary in a like manner, but to three separate yet closely related acts of creation.
|04 - Natural Selection||04-03 - Its Power on Characters of Trifling Importance||10||
It may metaphorically be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life.
We see nothing of these slow changes in progress, until the hand of time has marked the lapse of ages, and then so imperfect is our view into long-past geological ages, that we see only that the forms of life are now different from what they formerly were.
In order that any great amount of modification should be effected in a species, a variety when once formed must again, perhaps after a long interval of time, vary or present individual differences of the same favourable nature as before; and these must be again preserved, and so onwards step by step.
Seeing that individual differences of the same kind perpetually recur, this can hardly be considered as an unwarrantable assumption.
But whether it is true, we can judge only by seeing how far the hypothesis accords with and explains the general phenomena of nature. On the other hand, the ordinary belief that the amount of possible variation is a strictly limited quantity is likewise a simple assumption.
Although natural selection can act only through and for the good of each being, yet characters and structures, which we are apt to consider as of very trifling importance, may thus be acted on.
When we see leaf-eating insects green and bark-feeders mottled-grey; the alpine ptarmigan white in winter, the red grouse the colour of heather, we must believe that these tints are of service to these birds and insects in preserving them from danger.
Grouse, if not destroyed at some period of their lives, would increase in countless numbers; they are known to suffer largely from birds of prey; and hawks are guided by eyesight to their prey- so much so, that on parts of the Continent persons are warned not to keep white pigeons, as being the most liable to destruction.
Hence natural selection might be effective in giving the proper colour to each kind of grouse, and in keeping that colour, when once acquired, true and constant.
Nor ought we to think that the occasional destruction of an animal of any particular colour would produce little effect: we should remember how essential it is in a flock of white sheep to destroy a lamb with the faintest trace of black.
We have seen how the colour of the hogs, which feed on the "paint-root" in Virginia, determines whether they shall live or die.
In plants, the down on the fruit and the colour of the
flesh are considered by botanists as characters of the most
trifling importance: yet we hear from an excellent
horticulturist, Downing, that in the United States,
smooth-skinned fruits suffer far more from a beetle, a
Curculio, than those with down; that purple plums suffer far
more from a certain disease than yellow plums; whereas
another disease attacks yellow-fleshed peaches far more
than those with other coloured flesh. If, with all the aids of art,
these slight differences make a great difference in cultivating
the several varieties, assuredly, in a state of nature, where
the trees would have to struggle with other trees, and with a
host of enemies, such differences would effectually settle
which variety, whether a smooth or downy, a yellow or purple
fleshed fruit, should succeed.