Page images
PDF
EPUB

productive system being eminently sensitive to any change in thevconditions of life, being thus often rendered either impotent or at least incapable of its proper function of producing offspring .identical with the parent-form. Now hybrids in the first generation are descended from species (excluding those long cultivated) which have not had their reproductive systems in any way affected, and they are not variable; but hybrids themselves have their reproductive systems seriously affected, and their descendants are highly-variable. ~ _ = 2

:- But to return to our comparison of mongrels and hybrids: Gartner states that mongrels are more liable than hybrids to' revert to either. parent-form; , butv this, if it be true, is certainly only a difference in degree. Gartner further insists that when any two species, although most closely allied to each other, are crossed with a third species, the hybrids are widely different.from each other; whereas if two very distinct varieties of one species are crossed with-another species, the hybrids do not differ much. But this conclusion, as far as I can make out, is founded on' a single experiment; and seems directly opposed; to the~results of‘several experiments made,v by K61reuter.. ,

These alone are the unimportant differences which Gartner is able to point out between hybrid and mongrel plants. On the other band, the resemblance in mongrels and in hybrids to their respective parents, more especially in hybrids produced from nearly related species, follows according to Gartner the same laws. .When two species are crossed, one has sometimes a prepotent pOWer of impressing its likeness on the hybrid; and so I believe it to be. with varieties of plants. With animals one variety certainly often has this prepotent power over another variety. Hybrid plants produced. from a reciprocal cross, generally resemble each other. closely; and so it is with mongrels from a reciprocal cross. Both hybrids and mongrels can be reduced to either pure parentform, by repeated crosses in successive generations with either parent. .,,; -' \ _

These several remarks are apparently applicable to animals; but the subject‘is here excessively complicated, partly owing to the existence of secondary sexual characters; but more especially owing to prepotency in transmitting likeness running more strongly in one sex than in the other, both when one species is crossed with

another, and when one variety is crossed with another variety. For instance, I think those authors are right, who maintain that the ass has a prepotent power over the horse, so that both the mule and the hinny more resemble the ass than the horse ; but that the prepotency runs more strongly in the male-ass than in the female, so that the mule, which is the offspring of the male-ass and mare, is more like an ass, than is the hinny, which is the offspring of the female-ass and stallion.

Much stress has been laid by some authors on the supposed fact, that mongrel animals alone are born closely like one of their parents; but it can be shown that this does sometimes occur with hybrids; yet I grant much less frequently with hybrids than with mongrels. Looking to the cases which I have collected of cross-bred animals closely resembling one parent, the resemblances seem chiefly confined to characters almost; monstrous in their nature, and which have suddenly appeared—— such as albinism, melanism, deficiency of tail or horns, or additional fingers and toes; and do not relate to characters which have been slowly acquired by selection. Consequently, sudden reversions-to the perfect character of either parent would be more likely to occur with mongrels, which are descended from varieties often suddenly produced and semi-monstrous in character, than with hybrids, which are descended from species slowly and naturally produced. On the whole I entirely agree with Dr. Prosper Lucas, who, after arranging an enormous body of facts with respect to animals, comes to the conclusion, that the laws of resemblance of the child to its parents are the same, whether the two parents differ much or' little from. each other, namely, in the union of individuals of the same variety, or of different varieties, or of distinct species. ' " *

Laying aside the question of fertility and sterility, in all other respects there seems to be a general and close similarity in the offspring of crossed species, and of crossed varieties. If we look at species as having been specially created, and at varieties as having been produced by secondary laws, this similarity would be an astonishing fact. But it harmonises perfectly with the view that there is no essential distinction between species and varieties.

Summary of Chapter.-—-First crosses between forms sufficiently distinct to be ranked as species, and their hybrids, are very generally, but not universally, sterile. The sterility is of all degrees, and is often so slight that the two most careful experimentalists who have ever lived, have come to diametrically opposite conclusions in ranking forms by this test. The sterility is innately variable in individuals of the same species, and is eminently susceptible of favourable and unfavourable conditions. The degree of sterility does not strictly follow systematic affinity, but is governed by several curious and complex laws. It is generally different, and sometimes widely different, in reciprocal crosses between the same two species. It is not always equal in degree in a first cross and in the hybrid produced from this cross.

[graphic]

In the same manner as in grafting trees, the capacity of one species or variety to take on another is incidental on generally unknown differences in their vegetative systems, so in crossing, the greater or less facility of one species to unite with another, is incidental on unknown differences in their reproductive systems. There is no more reason to think that species have been specially endowed with various degrees of sterility to prevent them crossing and blending in nature, than to think that trees have been specially endowed with various and somewhat analogous degrees of difficulty in being grafted together in order to prevent them becoming inarched in our forests. ‘

The sterility of first crosses between pure species, which have their reproductive systems perfect, seems to depend on several circumstances; in some cases largely on the early death of the embryo. The sterility of hybrids, which have their reproductive systems imperfect, and which have had this system and their whole organisation disturbed by being compounded of two distinct species, seems closely allied to that sterility which so frequently affects pure species, when their natural conditions of life have been disturbed. This view is supported by a parallelism of another kind :—namely, that the crossing of forms only slightly different is favourable to the vigour and fertility of their offspring; and that slight changes in the conditions of life are apparently favourable to the vigour and fertility of all organic beings. It is not surprising that the degree of difficulty in uniting two species, and the degree of sterility of their hybridoffspring, should generally correspond, though due to distinct causes; for both depend on the amount of

difference of some kind between the species which are crossed. Nor is it surprising that the facility of effecting a firstv cross, the fertility of the hybrids produced from it, and the capacity of being grafted together—though this latter capacity evidently depends on widely different circumstances—should all run, to a certain extent, parallel 'with the systematic affinity of the forms which are subjected to experiment; for systematic affinity attempts to express all kinds of resemblance between all species. '

First'crosses between forms. known to be varieties, or sufficiently alike to be considered as varieties, and their mongrel offspring, are very generally, but not, as is so often falsely stated, universally fertile. Nor is this nearly general 'and perfect fertility surprising, when we remember how liable we are to argue in a circle with respect to varieties in a state of nature ;, and when we remember that the greater number of varieties have been produced under domestication by the selection of mere external differences, and not of differences in the reproductive system. In all other respects, excluding fertility, there is a close general resemblance between hybrids and mongrels. Finally, then, although we are profoundly ignorant in every case of the precise cause of sterility, the facts briefly given in this chapter do not seem to me opposed to, but even rather to support in some respects the view, that there is no fundamental distinction between species and varieties.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

On the absence of intermediate varieties at the present day—On the nature of extinct intermediate varieties; on their number— On the vast lapse of time, as inferred from the rate of deposition and of denudation—On the poorness of our palaeontological collections~On the denudation of granitic areas—On the intermittence of geological formations—On the absence of intermediate varieties in any one formation—On the sudden appearance of groups of species—On their sudden appearance in the lowest known fossiliferous strata.

IN the sixth chapter I enumerated the chief objections which might be justly urged against the views maintained in this volume. Most of them have now been discussed. One, namely the distinctness of specific forms, and their not being blended together by innumerable transitional links, is a very obvious difficulty. I assigned reasons why such links do not commonly occur at the present day, under the circumstances apparently most favourable for their presence, namely on an extensive and continuous area with graduated physical conditions. I endeavoured to show, that the life of each species depends in a more important manner on the presence of other already defined organic forms, than on climate; and, therefore, that the really governing conditions of life do not graduate away quite insensibly like heat or moisture. I endeavoured also to show, that intermediate varieties, from existing in lesser numbers than the forms which they connect, will generally be beaten out and exterminated during the course of further modification and improvement. The main cause, however, of innumerable intermediate links not now occurring everywhere throughout nature'depends on the very process of natural selection, through which new varieties continually take the places of and exterminate their parent-forms. But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, be truly enormous. ‘Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links ‘2 Geology assuredly does not

« PreviousContinue »