10 - On The Geological Succession of Organic Beings
10-04 - Groups of species follow the same general rules in their appearance and disappearance as do single species
Groups of species, that is, genera and families, follow the same general rules in their appearance and disappearance as do single species, changing more or less quickly, and in a greater or lesser degree.
A group does not reappear after it has once disappeared; or its existence, as long as it lasts, is continuous.
I am aware that there are some apparent exceptions to this rule, but the exceptions are surprisingly few, so few, that E. Forbes, Pictet, and Woodward (though all strongly opposed to such views as I maintain) admit its truth; and the rule strictly accords with my theory.
For as all the species of the same group have descended from some one species, it is clear that as long as any species of the group have appeared in the long succession of ages, so long must its members have continuously existed, in order to have generated either new and modified or the same old and unmodified forms.
Species of the genus Lingula, for instance, must have continuously existed by an unbroken succession of generations, from the lowest Silurian stratum to the present day.
We have seen in the last chapter that the species of a group sometimes falsely appear to have come in abruptly; and I have attempted to give an explanation of this fact, which if true would have been fatal to my views.
But such cases are certainly exceptional; the general rule being a gradual increase in number, till the group reaches its maximum, and then, sooner or later, it gradually decreases.
If the number of the species of a genus, or the number of the genera of a family, be represented by a vertical line of varying thickness, crossing the successive geological formations in which the species are found, the line will sometimes falsely appear to begin at its lower end, not in a sharp point, but abruptly; it then gradually thickens upwards, sometimes keeping for a space of equal thickness, and ultimately thins out in the upper beds, marking the decrease and final extinction of the species.
This gradual increase in number of the species of a group is strictly conformable with my theory; as the species of the same genus, and the genera of the same family, can increase only slowly and progressively; for the process of modification and the production of a number of allied forms must be slow and gradual, one species giving rise first to two or three varieties, these being slowly converted into species, which in their turn produce by equally slow steps other species, and so on, like the branching of a great tree from a single stem, till the group becomes large.