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13 - Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Or 13-12 - Summary 10 In this chapter I have attempted to show, that the subordination of group to group in all organisms throughout all time; that the nature of the relationship, by which all living and extinct beings are united by complex, radiating, and circuitous lines of affinities into one grand system; the rules followed and the difficulties encountered by naturalists in their classifications; the value set upon characters, if constant and prevalent, whether of high vital importance, or of the most trifling importance, or, as in rudimentary organs, of no importance; the wide opposition in value between analogical or adaptive characters, and characters of true affinity; and other such rules; all naturally follow on the view of the common parentage of those forms which are considered by naturalists as allied, together with their modification through natural selection, with its contingencies of extinction and divergence of character.

In considering this view of classification, it should be borne in mind that the element of descent has been universally used in ranking together the sexes, ages, and acknowledged varieties of the same species, however different they may be in structure.

If we extend the use of this element of descent, the only certainly known cause of similarity in organic beings, we shall understand what is meant by the natural system: it is genealogical in its attempted arrangement, with the grades of acquired difference marked by the terms varieties, species, genera, families, orders, and classes.

On this same view of descent with modification, all the great facts in Morphology become intelligible, whether we look to the same pattern displayed in the homologous organs, to whatever purpose applied, of the different species of a class; or to the homologous parts constructed on the same pattern in each individual animal and plant.

On the principle of successive slight variations, not necessarily or generally supervening at a very early period of life, and being inherited at a corresponding period, we can understand the great leading facts in Embryology; namely, the resemblance in an individual embryo of the homologous parts, which when matured will become widely different from each other in structure and function; and the resemblance in different species of a class of the homologous parts or organs, though fitted in the adult members for purposes as different as possible.

Larvae are active embryos, which have become specially modified in relation to their habits of life, through the principle of modifications being inherited at corresponding ages.

On this same principle and bearing in mind, that when organs are reduced in size, either from disuse or selection, it will generally be at that period of life when the being has to provide for its own wants, and bearing in mind how strong is the principle of inheritance the occurrence of rudimentary organs and their final abortion, present to us no inexplicable difficulties; on the contrary, their presence might have been even anticipated.

The importance of embryological characters and of rudimentary organs in classification is intelligible, on the view that an arrangement is only so far natural as it is genealogical.

Finally, the several classes of facts which have been considered in this chapter, seem to me to proclaim so plainly, that the innumerable species, genera, and families of organic beings, with which this world is peopled, have all descended, each within its own class or group, from common parents, and have all been modified in the course of descent, that I should without hesitation adopt this view, even if it were unsupported by other facts or arguments.