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13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or 13-02 - Natural system 10 Naturalists try to arrange the species, genera, and families in each class, on what is called the Natural System.

But what is meant by this system?

Some authors look at it merely as a scheme for arranging together those living objects which are most alike, and for separating those which are most unlike; or as an artificial means for enunciating, as briefly as possible, general propositions, that is, by one sentence to give the characters common, for instance, to all mammals, by another those common to all carnivora, by another those common to the dog-genus, and then by adding a single sentence, a full description is given of each kind of dog.

dog
dog


The ingenuity and utility of this system are indisputable.

But many naturalists think that something more is meant by the Natural System; they believe that it reveals the plan of the Creator; but unless it be specified whether order in time or space, or what else is meant by the plan of the Creator, it seems to me that nothing is thus added to our knowledge.

Such expressions as that famous one of Linnaeus, and which we often meet with in a more or less concealed form, that the characters do not make the genus, but that the genus gives the characters, seem to imply that something more is included in our classification, than mere resemblance.

Carl Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus


I believe that something more is included; and that propinquity of descent, the only known cause of the similarity of organic beings, is the bond, hidden as it is by various degrees of modification, which is partially revealed to us by our classifications.
13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or 13-01 - CLASSIFICATION, groups subordinate to groups 10 From the first dawn of life, all organic beings are found to resemble each other in descending degrees, so that they can be classed in groups under groups.

This classification is evidently not arbitrary like the grouping of the stars in constellations.

The existence of groups would have been of simple signification, if one group had been exclusively fitted to inhabit the land, and another the water; one to feed on flesh, another on vegetable matter, and so on; but the case is widely different in nature; for it is notorious how commonly members of even the same subgroup have different habits.

In our second and fourth chapters, on Variation and on Natural Selection, I have attempted to show that it is the widely ranging, the much diffused and common, that is the dominant species belonging to the larger genera, which vary most.

The varieties, or incipient species, thus produced ultimately become converted, as I believe, into new and distinct species; and these, on the principle of inheritance, tend to produce other new and dominant species.

Consequently the groups which are now large, and which generally include many dominant species, tend to go on increasing indefinitely in size.

I further attempted to show that from the varying descendants of each species trying to occupy as many and as different places as possible in the economy of nature, there is a constant tendency in their characters to diverge.

This conclusion was supported by looking at the great diversity of the forms of life which, in any small area, come into the closest competition, and by looking to certain facts in naturalisation.

I attempted also to show that there is a constant tendency in the forms which are increasing in number and diverging in character, to supplant and exterminate the less divergent, the less improved, and preceding forms.

I request the reader to turn to the diagram illustrating the action, as formerly explained, of these several principles; and he will see that the inevitable result is that the modified descendants proceeding from one progenitor become broken up into groups subordinate to groups.

In the diagram each letter on the uppermost line may represent a genus including several species; and all the genera on this line form together one class, for all have descended from one ancient but unseen parent, and, consequently, have inherited something in common.

But the three genera on the left hand have, on this same principle, much in common, and form a sub-family, distinct from that including the next two genera on the right hand, which diverged from a common parent at the fifth stage of descent.

These five genera have also much, though less, in common; and they form a family distinct from that including the three genera still further to the right hand, which diverged at a still earlier period.

And all these genera, descended from (A), form an order distinct from the genera descended from (I).

So that we here have many species descended from a single progenitor grouped into genera; and the genera are included in, or subordinate to, sub-families, families, and orders, all united into one class.

Thus, the grand fact in natural history of the subordination of group under group, which, from its familiarity, does not always sufficiently strike us, is in my judgement fully explained.
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12 - Geographical Distribution -- continued 12-60 - Summary of the last and present chapters 10 In these chapters I have endeavoured to show, that if we make due allowance for our ignorance of the full effects of all the changes of climate and of the level of the land, which have certainly occurred within the recent period, and of other similar changes which may have occurred within the same period; if we remember how profoundly ignorant we are with respect to the many and curious means of occasional transport, a subject which has hardly ever been properly experimentised on; if we bear in mind how often a species may have ranged continuously over a wide area, and then have become extinct in the intermediate tracts, I think the difficulties in believing that all the individuals of the same species, wherever located, have descended from the same parents, are not insuperable.

And we are led to this conclusion, which has been arrived at by many naturalists under the designation of single centres of creation, by some general considerations, more especially from the importance of barriers and from the analogical distribution of sub-genera, genera, and families.

With respect to the distinct species of the same genus, which on my theory must have spread from one parent-source; if we make the same allowances as before for our ignorance, and remember that some forms of life change most slowly, enormous periods of time being thus granted for their migration, I do not think that the difficulties are insuperable; though they often are in this case, and in that of the individuals of the same species, extremely grave.

As exemplifying the effects of climatal changes on distribution, I have attempted to show how important has been the influence of the modern Glacial period, which I am fully convinced simultaneously affected the whole world, or at least great meridional belts.

As showing how diversified are the means of occasional transport, I have discussed at some little length the means of dispersal of fresh-water productions.

If the difficulties be not insuperable in admitting that in the long course of time the individuals of the same species, and likewise of allied species, have proceeded from some one source; then I think all the grand leading facts of geographical distribution are explicable on the theory of migration (generally of the more dominant forms of life), together with subsequent modification and the multiplication of new forms.

We can thus understand the high importance of barriers, whether of land or water, which separate our several zoological and botanical provinces.
island
island
12 - Geographical Distribution -- continued 12-50 - On colonisation from the nearest source with subsequent modification 10 The most striking and important fact for us in regard to the inhabitants of islands, is their affinity to those of the nearest mainland, without being actually the same species.

Numerous instances could be given of this fact.

I will give only one, that of the Galapagos Archipelago, situated under the equator, between 500 and 600 miles from the shores of South America.

Galapagos Islands
Galapagos Islands

South America
South America


Here almost every product of the land and water bears the unmistakeable stamp of the American continent.

There are twenty-six land birds, and twenty-five of those are ranked by Mr Gould as distinct species, supposed to have been created here; yet the close affinity of most of these birds to American species in every character, in their habits, gestures, and tones of voice, was manifest.

Augustus Addison Gould
Augustus Addison Gould


So it is with the other animals, and with nearly all the plants, as shown by Dr. Hooker in his admirable memoir on the Flora of this archipelago.

Joseph Dalton Hooker
Joseph Dalton Hooker