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|12 - Geographical Distribution -- continued||12-60 - Summary of the last and present chapters||30||
We see this in many facts. The endurance of each species and group of species is continuous in time; for the exceptions to the rule are so few, that they may fairly be attributed to our not having as yet discovered in an intermediate deposit the forms which are therein absent, but which occur above and below: so in space, it certainly is the general rule that the area inhabited by a single species, or by a group of species, is continuous; and the exceptions, which are not rare, may, as I have attempted to show, be accounted for by migration at some former period under different conditions or by occasional means of transport, and by the species having become extinct in the intermediate tracts.
Both in time and space, species and groups of species have their points of maximum development.
Groups of species, belonging either to a certain period of time, or to a certain area, are often characterised by trifling characters in common, as of sculpture or colour.
In looking to the long succession of ages, as in now looking to distant provinces throughout the world, we find that some organisms differ little, whilst others belonging to a different class, or to a different order, or even only to a different family of the same order, differ greatly.
In both time and space the lower members of each class generally change less than the higher; but there are in both cases marked exceptions to the rule.
On my theory these several relations throughout time and space are intelligible; for whether we look to the forms of life which have changed during successive ages within the same quarter of the world, or to those which have changed after having migrated into distant quarters, in both cases the forms within each class have been connected by the same bond of ordinary generation; and the more nearly any two forms are related in blood, the nearer they will generally stand to each other in time and space; in both cases the laws of variation have been the same, and modifications have been accumulated by the same power of natural selection.
|13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or||13-03 - Rules and difficulties in classification, explained on the theory of descent with modification||30||
Perhaps from this cause it has partly arisen, that almost all naturalists lay the greatest stress on resemblances in organs of high vital or physiological importance.
No doubt this view of the classificatory importance of organs which are important is generally, but by no means always, true.
But their importance for classification, I believe, depends on their greater constancy throughout large groups of species; and this constancy depends on such organs having generally been subjected to less change in the adaptation of the species to their conditions of life.
That the mere physiological importance of an organ does not determine the classificatory value, is almost shown by the one fact, that in allied groups, in which the same organ, as we have every reason to suppose, has nearly the same physiological value, its classificatory value is widely different.
No naturalist can have worked at any group without being struck with this fact; and it has been most fully acknowledged in the writings of almost every author.
It will suffice to quote the highest authority, Robert Brown, who in speaking of certain organs in the Proteaceae, says their generic importance, `like that of all their parts, not only in this but, as I apprehend, in every natural family, is very unequal, and in some cases seems to be entirely lost.' Again in another work he says, the genera of the Connaraceae `differ in having one or more ovaria, in the existence or absence of albumen, in the imbricate or valvular aestivation.
|13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or||13-05 - Descent always used in classification||30||
As descent has universally been used in classing together the individuals of the same species, though the males and females and larvae are sometimes extremely different; and as it has been used in classing varieties which have undergone a certain, and sometimes a considerable amount of modification, may not this same element of descent have been unconsciously used in grouping species under genera, and genera under higher groups, though in these cases the modification has been greater in degree, and has taken a longer time to complete?
I believe it has thus been unconsciously used; and only thus can I understand the several rules and guides which have been followed by our best systematists.
We have no written pedigrees; we have to make out community of descent by resemblances of any kind.
Therefore we choose those characters which, as far as we can judge, are the least likely to have been modified in relation to the conditions of life to which each species has been recently exposed.
Rudimentary structures on this view are as good as, or even sometimes better than, other parts of the organisation.
We care not how trifling a character may be let it be the mere inflection of the angle of the jaw, the manner in which an insect's wing is folded, whether the skin be covered by hair or feathers if it prevail throughout many and different species, especially those having very different habits of life, it assumes high value; for we can account for its presence in so many forms with such different habits, only by its inheritance from a common parent.
We may err in this respect in regard to single points of structure, but when several characters, let them be ever so trifling, occur together throughout a large group of beings having different habits, we may feel almost sure, on the theory of descent, that these characters have been inherited from a common ancestor.
And we know that such correlated or aggregated characters have especial value in classification.
We can understand why a species or a group of species may depart, in several of its most important characteristics, from its allies, and yet be safely classed with them.
This may be safely done, and is often done, as long as a sufficient number of characters, let them be ever so unimportant, betrays the hidden bond of community of descent.
Let two forms have not a single character in common, yet if these extreme forms are connected together by a chain of intermediate groups, we may at once infer their community of descent, and we put them all into the same class.
As we find organs of high physiological importance those which serve to preserve life under the most diverse conditions of existence are generally the most constant, we attach especial value to them; but if these same organs, in another group or section of a group, are found to differ much, we at once value them less in our classification.
We shall hereafter, I think, clearly see why embryological characters are of such high classificatory importance.
|13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or||13-08 - Extinction separates and defines groups||30||
Extinction has only separated groups: it has by no means made them; for if every form which has ever lived on this earth were suddenly to reappear, though it would be quite impossible to give definitions by which each group could be distinguished from other groups, as all would blend together by steps as fine as those between the finest existing varieties, nevertheless a natural classification, or at least a natural arrangement, would be possible.
We shall see this by turning to the diagram: the letters, A to L, may represent eleven Silurian genera, some of which have produced large groups of modified descendants.
Every intermediate link between these eleven genera and their primordial parent, and every intermediate link in each branch and sub-branch of their descendants, may be supposed to be still alive; and the links to be as fine as those between the finest varieties.
In this case it would be quite impossible to give any definition by which the several members of the several groups could be distinguished from their more immediate parents; or these parents from their ancient and unknown progenitor.
Yet the natural arrangement in the diagram would still hold good; and, on the principle of inheritance, all the forms descended from A, or from I, would have something in common.
In a tree we can specify this or that branch, though at the actual fork the two unite and blend together.
We could not, as I have said, define the several groups; but we could pick out types, or forms, representing most of the characters of each group, whether large or small, and thus give a general idea of the value of the differences between them.
This is what we should be driven to, if we were ever to succeed in collecting all the forms in any class which have lived throughout all time and space.