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|OriginOfSpecies - 475 Rows|
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The law which causes the inhabitants of an archipelago, though specifically distinct, to be closely allied to those of the nearest continent, we sometimes see displayed on a small scale, yet in a most interesting manner, within the limits of the same archipelago.
Thus the several islands of the Galapagos Archipelago are tenanted, as I have elsewhere shown, in a quite marvellous manner, by very closely related species; so that the inhabitants of each separate island, though mostly distinct, are related in an incomparably closer degree to each other than to the inhabitants of any other part of the world.
And this is just what might have been expected on my view, for the islands are situated so near each other that they would almost certainly receive immigrants from the same original source, or from each other.
But this dissimilarity between the endemic inhabitants of the islands may be used as an argument against my views; for it may be asked, how has it happened in the several islands situated within sight of each other, having the same geological nature, the same height, climate, &c., that many of the immigrants should have been differently modified, though only in a small degree.
This long appeared to me a great difficulty: but it arises in chief part from the deeply-seated error of considering the physical conditions of a country as the most important for its inhabitants; whereas it cannot, I think, be disputed that the nature of the other inhabitants, with which each has to compete, is at least as important, and generally a far more important element of success.
Now if we look to those inhabitants of the Galapagos Archipelago which are found in other parts of the world (having on one side for the moment the endemic species, which cannot be here fairly included, as we are considering how they have come to be modified since their arrival), we find a considerable amount of difference in the several islands.
This difference might indeed have been expected on the view of the islands having been stocked by occasional means of transport a seed, for instance, of one plant having been brought to one island, and that of another plant to another island.
Hence when in former times an immigrant settled on any one or more of the islands, or when it subsequently spread from one island to another, it would undoubtedly be exposed to different conditions of life in the different islands, for it would have to compete with different sets of organisms: a plant, for instance, would find the best-fitted ground more perfectly occupied by distinct plants in one island than in another, and it would be exposed to the attacks of somewhat different enemies.
If then it varied, natural selection would probably favour different varieties in the different islands.
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Some species, however, might spread and yet retain the same character throughout the group, just as we see on continents some species' spreading widely and remaining the same.
The really surprising fact in this case of the Galapagos Archipelago, and in a lesser degree in some analogous instances, is that the new species formed in the separate islands have not quickly spread to the other islands.
But the islands, though in sight of each other, are separated by deep arms of the sea, in most cases wider than the British Channel, and there is no reason to suppose that they have at any former period been continuously united.
The currents of the sea are rapid and sweep across the archipelago, and gales of wind are extraordinarily rare; so that the islands are far more effectually separated from each other than they appear to be on a map.
Nevertheless a good many species, both those found in other parts of the world and those confined to the archipelago, are common to the several islands, and we may infer from certain facts that these have probably spread from some one island to the others.
But we often take, I think, an erroneous view of the probability of closely allied species invading each other's territory, when put into free intercommunication.
Undoubtedly if one species has any advantage whatever over another, it will in a very brief time wholly or in part supplant it; but if both are equally well fitted for their own places in nature, both probably will hold their own places and keep separate for almost any length of time.
Being familiar with the fact that many species, naturalised through man's agency, have spread with astonishing rapidity over new countries, we are apt to infer that most species would thus spread; but we should remember that the forms which become naturalised in new countries are not generally closely allied to the aboriginal inhabitants, but are very distinct species, belonging in a large proportion of cases, as shown by Alph. de Candolle, to distinct genera.
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In the Galapagos Archipelago, many even of the birds, though so well adapted for flying from island to island, are distinct on each; thus there are three closely-allied species of mocking-thrush, each confined to its own island.
Now let us suppose the mocking-thrush of Chatham Island to be blown to Charles Island, which has its own mocking-thrush: why should it succeed in establishing itself there? We may safely infer that Charles Island is well stocked with its own species, for annually more eggs are laid there than can possibly be reared; and we may infer that the mocking-thrush peculiar to Charles Island is at least as well fitted for its home as is the species peculiar to Chatham Island.
Sir C. Lyell and Mr. Wollaston have communicated to me a remarkable fact bearing on this subject; namely, that Madeira and the adjoining islet of Porto Santo possess many distinct but representative land-shells, some of which live in crevices of stone; and although large quantities of stone are annually transported from Porto Santo to Madeira, yet this latter island has not become colonised by the Porto Santo species: nevertheless both islands have been colonised by some European land-shells, which no doubt had some advantage over the indigenous species.
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From these considerations I think we need not greatly marvel at the endemic and representative species, which inhabit the several islands of the Galapagos Archipelago, not having universally spread from island to island.
In many other instances, as in the several districts of the same continent, pre-occupation has probably played an important part in checking the commingling of species under the same conditions of life.
Thus, the south-east and south-west corners of Australia have nearly the same physical conditions, and are united by continuous land, yet they are inhabited by a vast number of distinct mammals, birds, and plants.
The principle which determines the general character of the fauna and flora of oceanic islands, namely, that the inhabitants, when not identically the same, yet are plainly related to the inhabitants of that region whence colonists could most readily have been derived, the colonists having been subsequently modified and better fitted to their new homes, is of the widest application throughout nature.
We see this on every mountain, in every lake and marsh.
For Alpine species, excepting in so far as the same forms, chiefly of plants, have spread widely throughout the world during the recent Glacial epoch, are related to those of the surrounding lowlands; thus we have in South America, Alpine humming-birds, Alpine rodents, Alpine plants, &c., all of strictly American forms, and it is obvious that a mountain, as it became slowly upheaved, would naturally be colonised from the surrounding lowlands.