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02 - Variations Under Nature 02-04 - Wide-ranging, much diffused, and common Species vary most 10 Guided by theoretical consideration, I thought that some interesting results might be obtained in regard to the nature and relations of the species which vary most, by tabulating all the varieties in several well-worked floras.

At first this seemed a simple task; but Mr. H. C. Watson, to whom I am much indebted for valuable advice and assistance on this subject, soon convinced me that there were many difficulties, as did subsequently Dr. Hooker, even in stronger terms.

Hewett Cottrell Watson
Hewett Cottrell Watson


I shall reserve for a future work the discussion of these difficulties, and the tables of the proportional numbers of the varying species.

Dr. Hooker permits me to add that after having carefully read my manuscript, and examined the tables, he thinks that the following statements are fairly well established.

Joseph Dalton Hooker
Joseph Dalton Hooker


The whole subject, however, treated as it necessarily here is with much brevity, is rather perplexing, and allusions cannot be avoided to the "struggle for existence," "divergence of character," and other questions, hereafter to be discussed.
02 - Variations Under Nature 02-05 - Species of the Larger Genera in each Country vary more frequently than the Species of the Smaller Genera 10 If the plants inhabiting a country, as described in any Flora, be divided into two equal masses, all those in the larger genera (i.e., those including many species) being placed on one side, and all those in the smaller genera on the other side, the former will be found to include a somewhat larger number of the very common and much diffused or dominant species.

This might have been anticipated; for the mere fact of many species of the same genus inhabiting any country, shows that there is something in the organic or inorganic conditions of that country favourable to the genus; and, consequently, we might have expected to have found in the larger genera or those including many species, a larger proportional number of dominant species.

But so many causes tend to obscure this result, that I am surprised that my tables show even a small majority on the side of the larger genera.

I will here allude to only two causes of obscurity.

Fresh-water and salt-loving plants generally have very wide ranges and are much diffused, but this seems to be connected with the nature of the stations inhabited by them, and has little or no relation to the size of the genera to which the species belong. Again, plants low in the scale of organisation are generally much more widely diffused than plants higher in the scale; and here again there is no close relation to the size of the genera.

The cause of lowly-organised plants ranging widely will be discussed in our chapter on Geographical Distribution.

From looking at species as only strongly marked and well-defined varieties, I was led to anticipate that the species of the larger genera in each country would oftener present varieties, than the species of the smaller genera; for wherever many closely related species (i.e., species of the same genus) have been formed, many varieties or incipient species ought, as a general rule, to be now forming.

Where many large trees grow, we expect to find saplings.

Where many species of a genus have been formed through variation, circumstances have been favourable for variation; and hence we might expect that the circumstances would generally be still favourable to variation.

sapling
sapling
02 - Variations Under Nature 02-06 - Many of the Species included within the Larger Genera resemble Varieties in being very closely, but unequally, related to each other, and in having restricted ranges 10 There are other relations between the species of large genera and their recorded varieties which deserve notice.

We have seen that there is no infallible criterion by which to distinguish species and well-marked varieties; and when intermediate links have not been found between doubtful forms, naturalists are compelled to come to a determination by the amount of difference between them, judging by analogy whether or not the amount suffices to raise one or both to the rank of species.

Hence the amount of difference is one very important criterion in settling whether two forms should be ranked as species or varieties.

Now Fries has remarked in regard to plants, and Westwood in regard to insects, that in large genera the amount of difference between the species is often exceedingly small.

I have endeavoured to test this numerically by averages, and, as far as my imperfect results go, they confirm the view.

I have also consulted some sagacious and experienced observers, and, after deliberation, they concur in this view.

In this respect, therefore, the species of the larger genera resemble varieties, more than do the species of the smaller genera.

Elias Magnus Fries
Elias Magnus Fries


Or the case may be put in another way, and it maybe said, that in the larger genera, in which a number of varieties or incipient species greater than the average are now manufacturing, many of the species already manufactured still to a certain extent resemble varieties, for they differ from each other by less than the usual amount of difference.

Moreover, the species of the larger genera are related to each other, in the same manner as the varieties of any one species are related to each other. No naturalist pretends that all the species of a genus are equally distinct from each other; they may generally be divided into sub-genera, or sections, or lesser groups.

As Fries has well remarked, little groups of species are generally clustered like satellites around other species.
02 - Variations Under Nature 02-07 - Summary 10 Finally, varieties cannot be distinguished from species,- except, first, by the discovery of intermediate linking forms; and, secondly, by a certain indefinite amount of difference between them; for two forms, if differing very little, are generally ranked as varieties, notwithstanding that they cannot be closely connected; but the amount of difference considered necessary to give to any two forms the rank of species cannot be defined.

In genera having more than the average number of species in any country, the species of these genera have more than the average number of varieties.

In large genera the species are apt to be closely, but unequally, allied together, forming little clusters round other species. Species very closely allied to other species apparently have restricted ranges.