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04 - Natural Selection 04-11 - Divergence of Character 10 The principle, which I have designated by this term, is of high importance, and explains, as I believe, several important facts.

In the first place, varieties, even strongly-marked ones, though having somewhat of the character of species- as is shown by the hopeless doubts in many cases how to rank them- yet certainly differ far less from each other than do good and distinct species.

Nevertheless, according to my view, varieties are species in the process of formation, or are, as I have called them, incipient species.

How, then, does the lesser difference between varieties become augmented into the greater difference between species?

That this does habitually happen, we must infer from most of the innumerable species throughout nature presenting well-marked differences; whereas varieties, the supposed prototypes and parents of future well-marked species, present slight and ill-defined differences.

Mere chance, as we may call it, might cause one variety to differ in some character from its parents, and the offspring of this variety again to differ from its parent in the very same character and in a greater degree; but this alone would never account for so habitual and large a degree of difference as that between the species of the same genus.
04 - Natural Selection 04-11 - Divergence of Character 20 As has always been my practice, I have sought light on this head from our domestic productions.

We shall here find something analogous.

It will be admitted that the production of races so different as short-horn and Hereford cattle, race and cart horses, the several breeds of pigeons, &c., could never have been effected by the mere chance accumulation of similar variations during many successive generations.

Hereford Cow
Hereford Cow

Race Horse
Race Horse


In practice, a fancier is, for instance, struck by a pigeon having a slightly shorter beak; another fancier is struck by a pigeon having a rather longer beak; and on the acknowledged principle that "fanciers do not and will not admire a medium standard, but like extremes," they both go on (as has actually occurred with the sub-breeds of the tumbler-pigeon) choosing and breeding from birds with longer and longer beaks, or with shorter and shorter beaks.

pigeon
pigeon


Again, we may suppose that at an early period of history, the men of one nation or district required swifter horses, whilst those of another required stronger and bulkier horses.

Dray Horse
Dray Horse


The early differences would be very slight; but, in the course of time from the continued selection of swifter horses in the one case, and of stronger ones in the other, the differences would become greater, and would be noted as forming two sub-breeds.

Ultimately, after the lapse of centuries, these sub-breeds would become converted into two well-established and distinct breeds.

As the differences became greater, the inferior animals with intermediate characters, being neither swift nor very strong, would not have been used for breeding, and will thus have tended to disappear.

Here, then, we see in man's productions the action of what may be called the principle of divergence, causing differences, at first barely appreciable, steadily to increase, and the breeds to diverge in character, both from each other and from their common parent.
04 - Natural Selection 04-11 - Divergence of Character 30 But how, it may be asked, can any analogous principle apply in nature?

I believe it can and does apply most efficiently (though it was a long time before I saw how), from the simple circumstance that the more diversified the descendants from any one species become in structure, constitution, and habits, by so much will they be better enabled to seize on many and widely diversified places in the polity of nature, and so be enabled to increase in numbers.
04 - Natural Selection 04-11 - Divergence of Character 40 We can clearly discern this in the case of animals with simple habits.

Take the case of a carnivorous quadruped, of which the number that can be supported in any country has long ago arrived at its full average.

If its natural power of increase be allowed to act, it can succeed in increasing (the country not undergoing any change in conditions) only by its varying descendants seizing on places at present occupied by other animals: some of them, for instance, being enabled to feed on new kinds of prey, either dead or alive; some inhabiting new stations, climbing trees, frequenting water, and some perhaps becoming less carnivorous.

quadruped
quadruped

carnivore
carnivore

herbivore
herbivore


The more diversified in habits and structure the descendants of our carnivorous animals become, the more places they will be enabled to occupy.

What applies to one animal will apply throughout all time to all animals- that is, if they vary- for otherwise natural selection can effect nothing.

So it will be with plants. It has been experimentally proved, that if a plot of ground be sown with one species of grass, and a similar plot be sown with several distinct genera of grasses, a greater number of plants and a greater weight of dry herbage can be raised in the latter than in the former case.

grass
grass


The same has been found to hold good when one variety and several mixed varieties of wheat have been sown on equal spaces of ground.

wheat
wheat


Hence, if any one species of grass were to go on varying, and the varieties were continually selected which differed from each other in the same manner, though in a very slight degree, as do the distinct species and genera of grasses, a greater number of individual plants of this species, including its modified descendants, would succeed in living on the same piece of ground.

And we know that each species and each variety of grass is annually sowing almost countless seeds; and is thus striving, as it may be said, to the utmost to increase in number.

Consequently, in the course of many thousand generations, the most distinct varieties of any one species of grass would have the best chance of succeeding and of increasing in numbers, and thus of supplanting the less distinct varieties; and varieties, when rendered very distinct from each other, take the rank of species.

grass
grass