M Database Inspector (cheetah)
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|06 - Difficutiles in Theory||06-04 - Transitions in Habits of Life||40||
Now look at the Galeopithecus or so-called flying lemur, which formerly was ranked amongst bats, but is now believed to belong to the Insectivora.
An extremely wide flank membrane stretches from the corners of the jaw to the tail, and includes the limbs with the elongated fingers. This flank-membrane is furnished with an extensor muscle.
Although no graduated links of structure, fitted for gliding through the air, now connect the Galeopithecus with the other Insectivora, yet there is no difficulty in supposing that such links formerly existed, and that each was developed in the same manner as with the less perfectly gliding squirrels; each grade of structure having been useful to its possessor.
Nor can I see any insuperable difficulty in further believing that the membrane connected fingers and fore-arm of the Galeopithecus might have been greatly lengthened by natural selection; and this, as far as the organs of flight are concerned, would have converted the animal into a bat.
In certain bats in which the wing-membrane extends from the top of the shoulder to the tail and includes the hind-legs, we perhaps see traces of an apparatus originally fitted for gliding through the air rather than for flight.
|06 - Difficutiles in Theory||06-09 - Cases of Difficulty||40||
In the foregoing cases, we see the same end gained and the same function performed, in beings not at all or only remotely allied, by organs in appearance, though not in development, closely similar.
On the other hand, it is a common rule throughout nature that the same end should be gained, even sometimes in the case of closely-related beings, by the most diversified means.
How differently constructed is the feathered wing of a bird and the membrane-covered wing of a bat; and still more so the four wings of a butterfly, the two wings of a fly, and the two wings with the elytra of a beetle.
Bivalve shells are made to open and shut, but on what a number of patterns is the hinge constructed,- from the long row of neatly interlocking teeth in a Nucula to the simple ligament of a Mussel!
Seeds are disseminated by their minuteness,- by their capsule being converted into a light balloon-like envelope,- by being embedded in pulp or flesh, formed of the most diverse parts, and rendered nutritious, as well as conspicuously coloured, so as to attract and be devoured by birds,- by having hooks and grapnels of many kinds and serrated arms, so as to adhere to the fur of quadrupeds,- and by being furnished with wings and plumes, as different in shape as they are elegant in structure, so as to be wafted by every breeze.
I will give one other instance; for this subject of the same end being gained by the most diversified means well deserves attention.
Some authors maintain that organic beings have been formed in many ways for the sake of mere variety, almost like toys in a shop, but such a view of nature is incredible.
With plants having separated sexes, and with those in which, though hermaphrodites, the pollen does not spontaneously fall on the stigma, some aid is necessary for their fertilisation.
With several kinds this is effected by the pollen-grains, which are light and incoherent, being blown by the wind through mere chance on to the stigma; and this is the simplest plan which can well be conceived.
An almost equally simple, though very different, plan occurs in many plants in which a symmetrical flower secretes a few drops of nectar, and is consequently visited by insects; and these carry the pollen from the anthers to the stigma.
|06 - Difficutiles in Theory||06-07 - Organs of extreme Perfection||40||
He who will go thus far, ought not to hesitate to go one step further, if he finds on finishing this volume that large bodies of facts, otherwise inexplicable, can be explained by the theory of modification through natural selection; he ought to admit that a structure even as perfect as an eagle's eye might thus be formed, although in this case he does not know the transitional states.
It has been objected that in order to modify the eye and still preserve it as a perfect instrument, many changes would have to be effected simultaneously, which, it is assumed, could not be done through natural selection; but as I have attempted to show in my work on the variation of domestic animals, it is not necessary to suppose that the modifications were all simultaneous, if they were extremely slight and gradual.
Different kinds of modification would, also, serve for the same general purpose: as Mr. Wallace has remarked, "if a lens has too short or too long a focus, it may be amended either by an alteration of curvature, or an alteration of density; if the curvature be irregular, and the rays do not converge to a point, then any increased regularity of curvature will be an improvement.
So the contraction of the iris and the muscular movements of the eye are neither of them essential to vision, but only improvements which might have been added and perfected at any stage of the construction of the instrument."
Within the highest division of the animal kingdom, namely, the Vertebrata, we can start from an eye so simple, that it consists, as in the lancelet, of a little sack of transparent skin, furnished with a nerve and lined with pigment, but destitute of any other apparatus. In fishes and reptiles, as Owen has remarked, "the range of gradations of dioptric structures is very great."
It is a significant fact that even in man, according to the high authority of Virchow, the beautiful crystalline lens is formed in the embryo by an accumulation of epidermic cells, lying in a sack-like fold of the skin; and the vitreous body is formed from embryonic sub-cutaneous tissue.
To arrive, however, at a just conclusion regarding the formation of the eye, with all its marvellous yet not absolutely perfect characters, it is indispensable that the reason should conquer the imagination; but I have felt the difficulty far too keenly to be surprised at others hesitating to extend the principle of natural selection to so startling a length.
|05 - Laws of Variation||05-08 - Parts Developed in an Unusual Manner are Highly Variable||40||
When we see any part or organ developed in a remarkable degree or manner in a species, the fair presumption is that it is of high importance to that species: nevertheless it is in this case eminently liable to variation. Why should this be so?
On the view that each species has been independently created, with all its parts as we now see them, I can see no explanation.
But on the view that groups of species are descended from some other species, and have been modified through natural selection, I think we can obtain some light.
First let me make some preliminary remarks.
If, in our domestic animals, any part or the whole animal be neglected, and no selection be applied, that part (for instance, the comb in the Dorking fowl) or the whole breed will cease to have a uniform character: and the breed may be said to be degenerating.
In rudimentary organs, and in those which have been but little specialised for any particular purpose, and perhaps in polymorphic groups, we see a nearly parallel case; for in such cases natural selection either has not or cannot have come into full play, and thus the organisation is left in a fluctuating condition.
But what here more particularly concerns us is, that those points in our domestic animals, which at the present time are undergoing rapid change by continued selection, are also eminently liable to variation.
Look at the individuals of the same breed of the pigeon, and see what a prodigious amount of difference there is in the beaks of tumblers, in the beaks and wattle of carriers, in the carriage and tail of fantails, &c., these being the points now mainly attended to by English fanciers.
Even in the same sub-breed, as in that of the short-faced tumbler, it is notoriously difficult to breed nearly perfect birds, many departing widely from the standard.
There may truly be said to be a constant struggle going on between, on the one hand, the tendency to reversion to a less perfect state, as well as an innate tendency to new variations, and, on the other hand, the power of steady selection to keep the breed true. In the long run selection gains the day, and we do not expect to fail so completely as to breed a bird as coarse as a common tumbler pigeon from a good short-faced strain.
But as long as selection is rapidly going on, much variability in the parts undergoing modification may always be expected.