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04 - Natural Selection 04-07 - Illustrations of the Action of Natural Selection: 30 It should be observed that, in the above illustration, I speak of the slimmest individual wolves, and not of any single strongly-marked variation having been preserved.


In former editions of this work I sometimes spoke as if this latter alternative had frequently occurred.

I saw the great importance of individual differences, and this led me fully to discuss the results of unconscious selection by man, which depends on the preservation of all the more or less valuable individuals, and on the destruction of the worst.

I saw, also, that the preservation in a state of nature of any occasional deviation of structure, such as a monstrosity, would be a rare event; and that, if at first preserved, it would generally be lost by subsequent intercrossing with ordinary individuals.

Nevertheless, until reading an able and valuable article in the North British Review (1867), I did not appreciate how rarely single variations, whether slight or strongly-marked, could be.

perpetuated. The author takes the case of a pair of animals, producing during their lifetime two hundred offspring, of which, from various causes of destruction, only two on an average survive to procreate their kind.

This is rather an extreme estimate for most of the higher animals, but by no means so for many of the lower organisms.

He then shows that if a single individual were born, which varied in some manner, giving it twice as good a chance of life as that of the other individuals, yet the chances would be strongly against its survival.

Supposing it to survive and to breed, and that half its young inherited the favourable variation; still, as the reviewer goes on to show, the young would have only a slightly better chance of surviving and breeding; and this chance would go on decreasing in the succeeding generations.

The justice of these remarks cannot, I think, be disputed.

If, for instance, a bird of some kind could procure its food more easily by having its beak curved, and if one were born with its beak strongly curved, and which consequently flourished, nevertheless there would be a very poor chance of this one individual perpetuating its kind to the exclusion of the common form; but there can hardly be a doubt, judging by what we see taking place under domestication, that this result would follow from the preservation during many generations of a large number of individuals with more or less strongly curved beaks, and from the destruction of a still larger number with the straightest beaks.

04 - Natural Selection 04-08 - On the Intercrossing of Individuals 30 On the belief that this is a law of nature, we can, I think, understand several large classes of facts, such as the following, which on any other view are inexplicable.

Every hybridizer knows how unfavourable exposure to wet is to the fertilisation of a flower, yet what a multitude of flowers have their anthers and stigmas fully exposed to the weather!

If an occasional cross be indispensable, notwithstanding that the plant's own anthers and pistil stand so near each other as almost to insure self-fertilisation, the fullest freedom for the entrance of pollen from another individual will explain the above state of exposure of the organs.


Many flowers, on the other hand, have their organs of fructification closely enclosed, as in the great papilionaceous or pea-family; but these almost invariably present beautiful and curious adaptations in relation to the visits of insects.

So necessary are the visits of bees to many papilionaceous flowers, that their fertility is greatly diminished if these visits be prevented.

Now, it is scarcely possible for insects to fly from flower and flower, and not to carry pollen from one to the other, to the great good of the plant.

Insects act like a camel-hair pencil, and it is sufficient to ensure fertilisation, just to touch with the same brush the anthers of one flower and then the stigma of another; but it must not be supposed that bees would thus produce a multitude of hybrids between distinct species; for if a plant's own pollen and that from another species are placed on the same stigma, the former is so prepotent that it invariably and completely destroys, as has been shown by
Gartner, the influence of the foreign pollen.

04 - Natural Selection 04-09 - Circumstances favourable for the production of new forms through Natural Selection 30 But we shall see in the sixth chapter that intermediate varieties, inhabiting intermediate districts, will in the long run generally be supplanted by one of the adjoining varieties.

Intercrossing will chiefly affect those animals which unite for each birth and wander much, and which do not breed at a very quick rate.

Hence with animals of this nature, for instance, birds, varieties will generally be confined to separated countries; and this I find to be the case.

With hermaphrodite organisms which cross only ccasionally, and likewise with animals which unite for each birth, but which wander little and can increase at a rapid rate, a new
and improved variety might be quickly formed on any one spot, and might there maintain itself in a body and afterwards spread, so that the individuals of the new variety would chiefly cross together.

On this principle, nurserymen always prefer saving seed from a large body of plants, as the chance of intercrossing is thus lessened.

04 - Natural Selection 04-10 - Extinction caused by Natural Selection 30 From these several considerations I think it inevitably follows, that as new species in the course of time are formed through natural selection, others will become rarer and rarer, and finally extinct.

The forms which stand in closest competition with those undergoing modification and improvement will naturally suffer most.

And we have seen in the chapter on the Struggle for Existence that it is the most closely-allied forms,- varieties of the same species, and species of the same genus or of related genera,- which, from having nearly the same structure, constitution, and habits, generally come into the severest competition with each other; consequently, each new variety or species, during the progress of its formation, will generally press hardest on its nearest kindred, and tend to exterminate them.

We see the same process of extermination amongst our domesticated productions, through the selection of improved forms by man.

Many curious instances could be given showing how quickly new breeds of cattle, sheep, and other animals, and varieties of flowers, take the place of older and inferior kinds.



In Yorkshire, it is historically known that the ancient black cattle were displaced by the long-horns, and that these "were swept away by the shorthorns" (I quote the words of an agricultural writer) "as if by some murderous pestilence."