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OriginOfSpecies - 475 Rows
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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 77 of 119 (4/p)
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06 - Difficutiles in Theory 06-09 - Cases of Difficulty 50 From this simple stage we may pass through an inexhaustible number of contrivances, all for the same purpose and effected in essentially the same manner, but entailing changes in every part of the flower.

The nectar may be stored in variously shaped receptacles, with the stamens and pistils modified in many ways, sometimes forming trap-like contrivances, and sometimes capable of neatly adapted movements through irritability or elasticity.

From such structures we may advance till we come to such a case of extraordinary adaptation as that lately described by Dr. Cruger in the Coryanthes.


This orchid has part of its labellum or lower lip hollowed out into a great bucket, into which drops of almost pure water continually fall from two secreting horns which stand above it; and when the bucket is half full, the water overflows by a spout on one side.

The basal part of the labellum stands over the bucket, and is itself hollowed out into a sort of chamber with two lateral entrances; within this chamber there are curious fleshy ridges.

The most ingenious man, if he had not witnessed what takes place, could never have imagined what purpose all these parts serve.

But Dr. Cruger saw crowds of large humble-bees visiting the gigantic flowers of this orchid, not in order to suck nectar, but to gnaw off the ridges within the chamber above the bucket; in doing this they frequently pushed each other into the bucket, and their wings being thus wetted they could not fly away, but were compelled to crawl out through the passage formed by the spout or overflow.
Humble Bee
Humble Bee

Dr. Cruger saw a "continual procession" of bees thus crawling out of their involuntary bath.

The passage is narrow, and is roofed over by the column, so that a bee, in forcing its way out, first rubs its back against the viscid stigma and then against the viscid glands of the pollen-masses.

The pollen-masses are thus glued to the back of the bee which first happens to crawl out through the passage of a lately expanded flower, and are thus carried away.

Dr. Cruger sent me a flower in spirits of wine, with a bee which he had killed before it had quite crawled out with a pollen-mass still fastened to its back. When the bee, thus provided, flies to another flower, or to the same flower a second time, and is pushed by its comrades into the bucket and then crawls out by the passage, the pollen-mass necessarily comes first into contact with the viscid stigma, and adheres to it, and the flower is fertilised.

Now at last we see the full use of every part of the flower, of the water-secreting horns, of the bucket half full of water, which prevents the bees from flying away, and forces them to crawl out through the spout, and rub against the properly placed viscid pollen-masses and the viscid stigma.

The construction of the flower in another closely allied orchid, namely the Catasetum, is widely different, though serving the same end; and is equally curious.

Bees visit these flowers, like those of the Coryanthes, in order to gnaw the labellum; in doing this they inevitably touch a long, tapering, sensitive projection, or, as I have called it, the antenna.

This antenna, when touched, transmits a sensation or vibration to a certain membrane which is instantly ruptured; this sets free a spring by which the pollen-mass is shot forth, like an arrow, in the right direction, and adheres by its viscid extremity to the back of the bee.

The pollen-mass of the male plant (for the sexes are separate in this orchid) is thus carried to the flower of the female plant where it is brought into contact with the stigma, which is viscid enough to break certain elastic threads, and retaining the pollen, fertilisation is effected.
06 - Difficutiles in Theory 06-10 - Natura Non Facit Saltum 10 How, it may be asked, in the foregoing and in innumerable other instances, can we understand the graduated scale of complexity and the multifarious means for gaining the same end.

The answer no doubt is, as already remarked, that when two forms vary, which already differ from each other in some slight degree, the variability will not be of the same exact nature, and consequently the results obtained through natural selection for the same general purpose will not be the same.

We should also bear in mind that every highly developed organism has passed through many changes; and that each modified structure tends to be inherited, so that each modification will not readily be quite lost, but may be again and again further altered.

Hence the structure of each part of each species, for whatever purpose it may serve, is the sum of many inherited changes, through which the species has passed during its successive adaptations to changed habits and conditions of life.
06 - Difficutiles in Theory 06-10 - Natura Non Facit Saltum 20 Finally then, although in many cases it is most difficult even to conjecture by what transitions organs have arrived at their present state; yet, considering how small the proportion of living and known forms is to the extinct and unknown, I have been astonished how rarely an organ can be named, towards which no transitional grade is known to lead.

It certainly is true, that new organs appearing as if created for some special purpose, rarely or never appear in any being;- as indeed is shown by that old, but somewhat exaggerated, canon in natural history of "Natura non facit saltum."

We meet with this admission in the writings of almost every experienced naturalist; or as Milne Edwards has well expressed it, Nature is prodigal in variety, but niggard in innovation.

Why, on the theory of Creation, should there be so much variety and so little real novelty? Why should all the parts and organs of many independent beings, each supposed to have been separately created for its proper place in nature, be so commonly linked together by graduated steps?

Why should not Nature take a sudden leap from structure to structure? On the theory of natural selection, we can clearly understand why she should not; for natural selection acts only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a great and sudden leap, but must advance by short and sure, though slow steps.
06 - Difficutiles in Theory 06-11 - Organs of Small Importance 10 As natural selection acts by life and death,- by the survival of the fittest, and by the destruction of the less well-fitted individuals,- I have sometimes felt great difficulty in understanding the origin or formation of parts of little importance; almost as great, though of a very different kind, as in the case of the most perfect and complex organs.