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|04 - Natural Selection||04-04 - Its Power at All Ages and on Both Sexes||20||
Natural selection will modify the structure of the young in relation to the parent, and of the parent in relation to the young.
In social animals it will adapt the structure of each individual for the benefit of the whole community, if the community profits by the selected change.
What natural selection cannot do, is to modify the structure of one species, without giving it any advantage, for the good of another species; and though statements to this effect may be found in works of natural history, I cannot find one case which will bear investigation.
A structure used only once in an animal's life, if of high importance to it, might be modified to any extent by natural selection; for instance, the great jaws possessed by certain insects, used exclusively for opening the cocoon- or the hard tip to the beak of unhatched birds, used for breaking the egg.
It has been asserted, that of the best short-beaked tumbler-pigeons a greater number perish in the egg than are able to get out of it; so that fanciers assist in the act of hatching.
Now if nature had to make the beak of a full-grown pigeon very short for the bird's own advantage, the process of modification would be very slow, and there would be simultaneously the most rigorous selection of all the young birds within the egg, which had the most powerful and hardest beaks, for all with weak beaks would inevitably perish; or, more delicate and more easily broken shells might be selected, the thickness of the shell being known to vary like every other structure.
It may be well here to remark that with all beings there must be much fortuitous destruction, which can have little or no influence on the course of natural selection.
For instance a vast number of eggs or seeds are annually devoured, and these could be modified through natural selection only if they varied in some manner which protected them from their enemies.
Yet many of these eggs or seeds would perhaps, if not destroyed, have yielded individuals better adapted to their conditions of life than any of these which happened to survive.
So again a vast number of mature animals and plants, whether or not they be the best adapted to their conditions, must be annually destroyed by accidental causes, which would not be in the least degree mitigated by certain changes of structure or constitution which would in other ways be beneficial to the species.
But let the destruction of the adults be ever so heavy, if the number which can exist in any district be not wholly kept down by such causes,- or again let the destruction of eggs or seeds be so great that only a hundredth or a thousandth part are developed,- yet of those which do survive, the best adapted individuals, supposing that there is any variability in favourable direction, will tend to propagate their kind in larger numbers than the less well adapted.
If the numbers be wholly kept down by the causes just indicated, as will often have been the case, natural selection will be powerless in certain beneficial directions; but this is no valid objection to its efficiency at other times and in other ways; for we are far from having any reason to suppose that many species ever undergo modification and improvement at the same time in the same area.
|04 - Natural Selection||04-12 - On the Degree to which Organisation tends to advance||10||
Natural Selection acts exclusively by the preservation and accumulation of variations, which are beneficial under the organic and inorganic conditions to which each creature is exposed at all periods of life.
The ultimate result is that each creature tends to become more and more improved in relation to its conditions.
This improvement inevitable leads to the gradual advancement of the organisation of the greater number of living beings throughout the world.
But here we enter on a very intricate subject, for naturalists have not defined to each other's satisfaction what is meant by an advance in organisation.
|04 - Natural Selection||04-13 - Convergence of Character||10||Mr. H. C. Watson thinks that I have overrated the importance of divergence of character (in which, however, he apparently believes) and that convergence, as it may be called, has likewise played a part. If two species, belonging to two distinct though allied genera, had both produced a large number of new and divergent forms, it is conceivable that these might approach each other so closely that they would have all to be classed under the same genus; and thus the descendants of two distinct genera would converge into one.|
|04 - Natural Selection||04-06 - On the generality of Intercross Between Individuals of the Same Species||100||
Let us now turn to the nectar-feeding insects; we may suppose the plant, of which we have been slowly increasing the nectar by continued selection, to be a common plant; and that certain insects depended in main part on its nectar for food.
I could give many facts showing how anxious bees are to save time: for instance, their habit of cutting holes and sucking the nectar at the bases of certain flowers, which, with a very little more trouble, they can enter by the mouth.
Bearing such facts in mind, it may be believed that under certain circumstances individual differences in the curvature or length of the proboscis, &c., too slight to be appreciated by us, might profit a bee or other insect, so that certain individuals would be able to obtain their food more quickly than others; and thus the communities to which they belonged would flourish and throw off many swarms inheriting the same peculiarities.
The tubes of the corolla of the common red and incarnate clovers (Trifolium pratense and incarnatum) do not on a hasty glance appear to differ in length; yet the hive-bee can easily suck the nectar out of the incarnate clover, but not out of the common red clover, which is visited by humble-bees alone; so that whole fields of red clover offer in vain an abundant supply of precious nectar to the hive-bee.
That this nectar is much liked by the hive-bee is certain; for I have repeatedly seen, but only in the autumn, many hive-bees sucking the flowers through holes bitten in the base of the tube by humble-bees.
The difference in the length of the corolla in the two kinds of clover, which determines the visits of the hive-bee, must be very trifling; for I have been assured that when red clover has been mown, the flowers of the second crop are somewhat smaller, and that these are visited by many hive-bees.
I do not know whether this statement is accurate; nor whether another published statement can be trusted, namely, that the Ligurian bee which is generally considered a mere variety of the common hive-bee, and which freely crosses with it, is able to reach and suck the nectar of the red clover.
Thus, in a country where this kind of clover abounded, it might be a great advantage to the hive-bee to have a slightly longer or differently constructed proboscis.
On the other hand, as the fertility of this clover absolutely depends on bees visiting the flowers, if humble-bees were to become rare in any country, it might be a great advantage to the plant to have a, shorter or more deeply divided corolla, so that the hive-bees should be enabled to suck its flowers.
Thus I can understand how a flower and a bee might slowly become, either simultaneously or one after the other, modified and adapted to each other in the most perfect manner, by the continued preservation of all the individuals which presented slight deviations of structure mutually favourable to each other.