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OriginOfSpecies - 475 Rows
Column Type #Values Column Stats
id int(11) 475 Column Stats
subject varchar(80) 14 Column Stats
title varchar(250) 139 Column Stats
ordinal int(11) 30 Column Stats
description text 474 Column Stats

475 rows, page 63 of 119 (4/p)
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05 - Laws of Variation 05-12 - Reversion to Long Lost Characters 10 No doubt it is a very surprising fact that characters should reappear after having been lost for many, probably for hundreds of generations.

But when a breed has been crossed only once by some other breed, the offspring occasionally show for many generations a tendency to revert in character to the foreign breed- some say, for a dozen or even a score of generations.

After twelve generations, the proportion of blood, to use a common expression, from one ancestor, is only 1 in 2048;
and yet, as we see, it is generally believed that a tendency to reversion is retained by this remnant of foreign blood.

In a breed which has not been crossed, but in which both parents have lost some character which their progenitor possessed, the tendency, whether strong or weak, to reproduce the lost character might, as was formerly remarked, for all that we can see to the contrary, be transmitted for almost any number of generations.

When a character which has been lost in a breed, reappears after a great number of generations, the most probable hypothesis is, not that one individual suddenly takes after an ancestor removed by some hundred generations, but that in each successive generation the character in question has been lying latent, and at last, under unknown favourable conditions, is developed.

With the barb-pigeon, for instance, which very rarely produces a blue bird, it is probable that there is a latent tendency in each generation to produce blue plumage.

Barb Pigeon
Barb Pigeon

The abstract improbability of such a tendency being transmitted through a vast number of generations, is not greater than that of quite useless or rudimentary organs being similarly transmitted. A mere tendency to produce a rudiment is indeed sometimes thus inherited.
05 - Laws of Variation 05-12 - Reversion to Long Lost Characters 20 As all the species of the same genus are supposed to be descended from a common progenitor, it might be expected that they would occasionally vary in an analogous manner; so that the varieties of two or more species would resemble each other, or that a variety of one species would resemble in certain characters another and distinct species,- this other species being, according to our view, only a well marked and permanent variety.

But characters exclusively due to analogous variation would probably be of an unimportant nature, for the preservation of all functionally important characters will have been determined through natural selection, in accordance with the different habits of the species.

It might further be expected that the species of the same genus would occasionally exhibit reversions to long lost characters.

As, however, we do not know the common ancestors of any natural group, we cannot distinguish between reversionary and analogous characters.

If, for instance, we did not know that the parent rock-pigeon was not feather-footed or turn-crowned, we could not have told, whether such characters in our domestic breeds were reversions or only analogous variations; but we might have inferred that the blue colour was a case of reversion from the number of the markings, which are correlated with this tint, and which would not probably have all appeared together from simple variation.

Rock Pigeon
Rock Pigeon

More especially we might have inferred this, from the blue colour and the several marks so often appearing when differently coloured breeds are crossed.

Hence, although under nature it must generally be left doubtful, what cases are reversions to formerly existing characters, and what are new but analogous variations, yet we ought, on our theory, sometimes to find the varying offspring of a species assuming characters which are already present in other members of the same group.

And this undoubtedly is the case. The difficulty in distinguishing variable species is largely due to the varieties mocking, as it were, other species of the same genus.
05 - Laws of Variation 05-12 - Reversion to Long Lost Characters 30 A considerable catalogue, also, could be given of forms intermediate between two other forms, which themselves can only doubtfully be ranked as species; and this shows, unless all these closely allied forms be considered as independently created species, that they have in varying assumed some of the characters of the others.

But the best evidence of analogous variations is afforded by parts or organs which are generally constant in character, but which occasionally vary so as to resemble, in some degree, the same part or organ in an allied species.

I have collected a long list of such cases; but here, as before, I lie under the great disadvantage of not being able to give them.

I can only repeat that such cases certainly occur, and seem to me very remarkable.
05 - Laws of Variation 05-12 - Reversion to Long Lost Characters 40 I will, however, give one curious and complex case, not indeed as affecting any important character, but from occurring in several species of the same genus, partly under domestication and partly under nature. It is a case almost certainly of reversion.

The ass sometimes has very distinct transverse bars on its legs, like those on the legs of the zebra: it has been asserted that these are plainest in the foal, and, from inquiries which I have made, I believe this to be true.



The stripe on the shoulder is sometimes double, and is very variable in length and outline.

A white ass, but not an albino, has been described without either spinal or shoulder stripe: and these stripes are sometimes very obscure, or actually quite lost, in dark-coloured asses.

The koulan of Pallas is said to have been seen with a double shoulder-stripe. Mr. Blyth has seen a specimen of the hemionus with a distinct shoulder-stripe, though it properly has none; and I have been informed by Colonel Poole that the foals of this species are generally striped on the legs, and faintly on the shoulder. The quagga, though so plainly barred like a zebra over the body, is without bars on the legs; but Dr. Gray has figured one specimen with very distinct zebra-like bars on the hocks.