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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 80 If certain characters are always found correlated with others, though no apparent bond of connexion can be discovered between them, especial value is set on them.

As in most groups of animals, important organs, such as those for propelling the blood, or for aerating it, or those for propagating the race, are found nearly uniform, they are considered as highly serviceable in classification; but in some groups of animals all these, the most important vital organs, are found to offer characters of quite subordinate value.

We can see why characters derived from the embryo should be of equal importance with those derived from the adult, for our classifications of course include all ages of each species.

But it is by no means obvious, on the ordinary view, why the structure of the embryo should be more important for this purpose than that of the adult, which alone plays its full part in the economy of nature.

Yet it has been strongly urged by those great naturalists, Milne Edwards and Agassiz, that embryonic characters are the most important of any in the classification of animals; and this doctrine has very generally been admitted as true.

Henri Milne Edwards
Henri Milne Edwards

Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz
Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz
13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or 13-05 - Descent always used in classification 40 Geographical distribution may sometimes be brought usefully into play in classing large and widely-distributed genera, because all the species of the same genus, inhabiting any distinct and isolated region, have in all probability descended from the same parents.

We can understand, on these views, the very important distinction between real affinities and analogical or adaptive resemblances.

Lamarck first called attention to this distinction, and he has been ably followed by Macleay and others.

Jean Baptiste Lamarck
Jean Baptiste Lamarck

William Sharp Macleay
William Sharp Macleay
13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or 13-05 - Descent always used in classification 60 On my view of characters being of real importance for classification, only in so far as they reveal descent, we can clearly understand why analogical or adaptive character, although of the utmost importance to the welfare of the being, are almost valueless to the systematist.

For animals, belonging to two most distinct lines of descent, may readily become adapted to similar conditions, and thus assume a close external resemblance; but such resemblances will not reveal will rather tend to conceal their blood-relationship to their proper lines of descent.

We can also understand the apparent paradox, that the very same characters are analogical when one class or order is compared with another, but give true affinities when the members of the same class or order are compared one with another: thus the shape of the body and fin-like limbs are only analogical when whales are compared with fishes, being adaptations in both classes for swimming through the water; but the shape of the body and fin-like limbs serve as characters exhibiting true affinity between the several members of the whale family; for these cetaceans agree in so many characters, great and small, that we cannot doubt that they have inherited their general shape of body and structure of limbs from a common ancestor.

whale
whale

fish
fish


So it is with fishes.
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 110 Instances could be given amongst plants and insects, of a group of forms, first ranked by practised naturalists as only a genus, and then raised to the rank of a sub-family or family; and this has been done, not because further research has detected important structural differences, at first overlooked, but because numerous allied species, with slightly different grades of difference, have been subsequently discovered.

All the foregoing rules and aids and difficulties in classification are explained, if I do not greatly deceive myself, on the view that the natural system is founded on descent with modification; that the characters which naturalists consider as showing true affinity between any two or more species, are those which have been inherited from a common parent, and, in so far, all true classification is genealogical; that community of descent is the hidden bond which naturalists have been unconsciously seeking, and not some unknown plan of creation, or the enunciation of general propositions, and the mere putting together and separating objects more or less alike.

But I must explain my meaning more fully.

I believe that the arrangement of the groups within each class, in due subordination and relation to the other groups, must be strictly genealogical in order to be natural; but that the amount of difference in the several branches or groups, though allied in the same degree in blood to their common progenitor, may differ greatly, being due to the different degrees of modification which they have undergone; and this is expressed by the forms being ranked under different genera, families, sections, or orders.

The reader will best understand what is meant, if he will take the trouble of referring to the diagram in the fourth chapter.

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