M Database Inspector (cheetah)
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|05 - Laws of Variation||05-03 - Acclimatisation||40||On the whole, we may conclude that habit, or use and disuse, have, in some cases, played a considerable part in the modification of the constitution and structure; but that the effects have often been largely combined with, and sometimes overmastered by the natural selection of innate variations.|
|05 - Laws of Variation||05-04 - Correlation of Growth||40||
I know of no case better adapted to show the importance of the laws of correlation and variation, independently of utility and therefore of natural selection, than that of the difference between the outer and inner flowers in some compositous and timbelliferous plants.
Every one is familiar with the difference between the ray and central florets of, for instance, the daisy, and this difference is often accompanied with the partial or complete abortion of the reproductive organs.
But in some of these plants, the seeds also differ in shape and sculpture. These differences have sometimes been attributed to the pressure of the involuera on the florets, or to their mutual pressure, and the shape of the seeds in the ray-florets of some Compositae countenances this idea; but with the Umbelliferae, it is by no means, as Dr. Hooker informs me, the species with the densest heads which most frequently differ in their inner and outer flowers.
It might have been thought that the development of the ray-petals by drawing nourishment from the reproductive organs causes their abortion; but this can hardly be the sole cause, for in some Compositae the seeds of the outer and inner florets differ, without any difference in the corolla.
Possibly these several differences may be connected with the different flow of nutriment towards the central and external flowers: we know, at least, that with irregular flowers, those nearest to the axis are most subject to peloria, that is to become abnormally symmetrical.
I may add, as an instance of this fact, and as a striking case of correlation, that in many pelargoniums, the two upper petals in the central flower of the truss often lose their patches of darker colour; and when this occurs, the adherent nectary is quite aborted; the central flower thus becoming peloric or regular.
When the colour is absent from only one of the two upper petals, the nectary is not quite aborted but is much shortened.
|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.
|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.