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13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or 13-08 - Extinction separates and defines groups 40 We shall certainly never succeed in making so perfect a collection: nevertheless, in certain classes, we are tending in this direction; and Milne Edwards has lately insisted, in an able paper, on the high importance of looking to types, whether or not we can separate and define the groups to which such types belong.

Henri Milne Edwards
Henri Milne Edwards


Finally, we have seen that natural selection, which results from the struggle for existence, and which almost inevitably induces extinction and divergence of character in the many descendants from one dominant parent-species, explains that great and universal feature in the affinities of all organic beings, namely, their subordination in group under group.

We use the element of descent in classing the individuals of both sexes and of all ages, although having few characters in common, under one species; we use descent in classing acknowledged varieties, however different they may be from their parent; and I believe this element of descent is the hidden bond of connexion which naturalists have sought under the term of the Natural System.

On this idea of the natural system being, in so far as it has been perfected, genealogical in its arrangement, with the grades of difference between the descendants from a common parent, expressed by the terms genera, families, orders, &c., we can understand the rules which we are compelled to follow in our classification.

We can understand why we value certain resemblances far more than others; why we are permitted to use rudimentary and useless organs, or others of trifling physiological importance; why, in comparing one group with a distinct group, we summarily reject analogical or adaptive characters, and yet use these same characters within the limits of the same group.

We can clearly see how it is that all living and extinct forms can be grouped together in one great system; and how the several members of each class are connected together by the most complex and radiating lines of affinities.

We shall never, probably, disentangle the inextricable web of affinities between the members of any one class; but when we have a distinct object in view, and do not look to some unknown plan of creation, we may hope to make sure but slow progress.
13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or 13-03 - Rules and difficulties in classification, explained on the theory of descent with modification 100 Geographical distribution has often been used, though perhaps not quite logically, in classification, more especially in very large groups of closely allied forms.

Temminck insists on the utility or even necessity of this practice in certain groups of birds; and it has been followed by several entomologists and botanists.

Coenraad Jacob Temminck
Coenraad Jacob Temminck


Finally, with respect to the comparative value of the various groups of species, such as orders, sub-orders, families, sub-families, and genera, they seem to be, at least at present, almost arbitrary.

Several of the best botanists, such as Mr Bentham and others, have strongly insisted on their arbitrary value.

George Bentham
George Bentham
13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or 13-03 - Rules and difficulties in classification, explained on the theory of descent with modification 20 These resemblances, though so intimately connected with the whole life of the being, are ranked as merely `adaptive or analogical characters;' but to the consideration of these resemblances we shall have to recur.

It may even be given as a general rule, that the less any part of the organisation is concerned with special habits, the more important it becomes for classification.

As an instance: Owen, in speaking of the dugong, says, `The generative organs being those which are most remotely related to the habits and food of an animal, I have always regarded as affording very clear indications of its true affinities.

Richard Owen
Richard Owen


We are least likely in the modifications of these organs to mistake a merely adaptive for an essential character.' So with plants, how remarkable it is that the organs of vegetation, on which their whole life depends, are of little signification, excepting in the first main divisions; whereas the organs of reproduction, with their product the seed, are of paramount importance!

We must not, therefore, in classifying, trust to resemblances in parts of the organisation, however important they may be for the welfare of the being in relation to the outer world.
13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or 13-01 - CLASSIFICATION, groups subordinate to groups 10 From the first dawn of life, all organic beings are found to resemble each other in descending degrees, so that they can be classed in groups under groups.

This classification is evidently not arbitrary like the grouping of the stars in constellations.

The existence of groups would have been of simple signification, if one group had been exclusively fitted to inhabit the land, and another the water; one to feed on flesh, another on vegetable matter, and so on; but the case is widely different in nature; for it is notorious how commonly members of even the same subgroup have different habits.

In our second and fourth chapters, on Variation and on Natural Selection, I have attempted to show that it is the widely ranging, the much diffused and common, that is the dominant species belonging to the larger genera, which vary most.

The varieties, or incipient species, thus produced ultimately become converted, as I believe, into new and distinct species; and these, on the principle of inheritance, tend to produce other new and dominant species.

Consequently the groups which are now large, and which generally include many dominant species, tend to go on increasing indefinitely in size.

I further attempted to show that from the varying descendants of each species trying to occupy as many and as different places as possible in the economy of nature, there is a constant tendency in their characters to diverge.

This conclusion was supported by looking at the great diversity of the forms of life which, in any small area, come into the closest competition, and by looking to certain facts in naturalisation.

I attempted also to show that there is a constant tendency in the forms which are increasing in number and diverging in character, to supplant and exterminate the less divergent, the less improved, and preceding forms.

I request the reader to turn to the diagram illustrating the action, as formerly explained, of these several principles; and he will see that the inevitable result is that the modified descendants proceeding from one progenitor become broken up into groups subordinate to groups.

In the diagram each letter on the uppermost line may represent a genus including several species; and all the genera on this line form together one class, for all have descended from one ancient but unseen parent, and, consequently, have inherited something in common.

But the three genera on the left hand have, on this same principle, much in common, and form a sub-family, distinct from that including the next two genera on the right hand, which diverged from a common parent at the fifth stage of descent.

These five genera have also much, though less, in common; and they form a family distinct from that including the three genera still further to the right hand, which diverged at a still earlier period.

And all these genera, descended from (A), form an order distinct from the genera descended from (I).

So that we here have many species descended from a single progenitor grouped into genera; and the genera are included in, or subordinate to, sub-families, families, and orders, all united into one class.

Thus, the grand fact in natural history of the subordination of group under group, which, from its familiarity, does not always sufficiently strike us, is in my judgement fully explained.
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