« PreviousContinue »
increased use or disnise of parts. The final result is thus rendered infinitely complex. In some cases the intercrossing of aboriginally distinct species appears to have played an important part in the origin of our breeds. When several breeds have once been formed in any country, their occasional intercrossing, with the aid of selection, has, no doubt, largely aided in the formation of new subbreeds; but the importance of crossing has been much exaggerated, both in regard to animals and to those plants which are propagated by seed. With plants which are temporarily propagated by cuttings, buds, &c., the importance of crossing is immense ; for the cultivator may here disregard the extreme variability both of hybrids and of mongrels, and the sterility of hybrids; but plants not propagated by seed are of little importance to us, for their endurance is only temporary. Over all these causes of Change, the accumulative action of Selection, whether applied methodically and quickly, or unconsciously and slowly but more efficiently, seems to have been the predominant Power.
Variation Under Nature.
Variability — Individual differences — Doubtful species — Wide ranging, much diffused, and common species, vary most — Species of the larger genera in each country vary more frequently than the species of the smaller genera — Many of the species of the larger genera resemble varieties in being very closely, but unequally, related to each other, and in having restricted ranges.
Before applying the principles arrived at in the last chapter to organic beings in a state of nature, we must briefly discuss whether these latter are subject to any variation. To treat this subject properly, a long catalogue of dry facts ought to be given; but these I shall reserve for a future work. Nor shall I here discuss the various definitions which have been given of the term species. No one definition has satisfied all naturalists; yet every naturalist knows vaguely what he means when he speaks of a species. Generally the term include^ the unknown element of a distinct act of creation. The term "variety" is almost equally difficult to define';"but here community of descent is almost universally implied, though it can rarely be "proved. We have 'also what are called monstrosities; but they graduate into varieties. By a monstr^iF^_preWme is"Tn^fflTsome'considerable deviation of structure, generally injurious^ or"not useful tcTlhe species. Some authors use the term 'variation" in a Technical sense, as implying a modification directly due to the physical conditions of life; and "variations" in this sense are supposed not to be inherited ; but who can say that the dwarfed condition of shells in the brackish waters of the Baltic, or dwarfed plants on Alpine summits, or the thicker fur of an animal from far northwards, would not in some cases be inherited for at least a few generations? and in this case I presume that the form would be called a variety.
It may be doubted whether sudden and considerable deviations of structure such as we occasionally see in our domestic productions, more especially with plants, are ever permanently propagated in a state of nature. Almost every part of every organic being is so beautifully related to its complex conditions of life that it seems as ! improbable that any part should have been suddenly produced | perfect, as that a complex machine should have been invented by ■ man in a perfect state. Under domestication monstrosities sometimes occur which resemble normal structures in widely different animals. Thus pigs have occasionally been born with a sort of proboscis, and if any wild species of the same genus had naturally possessed a proboscis, it might have been argued that this had appeared as a monstrosity; but I have as yet failed to find, after diligent search, cases of monstrosities resembling normal structures in nearly allied forms, and these alone bear on the question. If monstrous forms of this kind ever do appear in a state of nature and are capable of reproduction (which is not always the case), as they occur rarely and singly, their preservation would depend on unusually favourable circumstances. They would, also, during the first and succeeding generations cross with the ordinary form, and thus their abnormal character would almost inevitably be lost. But I shall have to return in a future chapter to the preservation and perpetuation of single or occasional variations.
The many slight differences which appear in the offspring from the same parents, or which it may be presumed have thus arisen, from being observed in the individuals of the same species inhabiting the same confined locality, may be called individual differences. No one supposes that all the individuals of the same species are cast in the same actual mould. These individual differences are of the highest importance for us, for they'a7e"oTften njEeriteii, as must be familiar to every one; and they thus afford materials for natural selection to act on and accumulate, In the same manner as man accumulates in any given direction individual differences in his domesticated productions. These individual differences generally affect what naturalists consider unimportant parts; but I could show by a long catalogue of facts, that parts which must be called important, whether viewed under a physiological or classificatory point of view, sometimes vary in the individuals of the same species. I am convinced that the most experienced naturalist would be surprised at the number of Jjie_ cases of variability, even in important parts of strucHireVwhichne could collect on good authority, as I have collected, during a course of years. It should be remembered that systematists are far from being pleased at finding variability in important characters, and that there are not many men who will laboriously examine internal and important organs, and compare them in many specimens of
the same species. It would never have been expected that the branching of the main nerves close to the great central ganglion of lin iumiUl Would have been variable in the same species; it might have been thought that changes of this nature could have been effected only by slow degrees; yet Sir J. Lubbock has shown a degree of variability in these main nerves in Coccus, which may almost be compared to the irregular branching of the stem of a tree. This philosophical naturalist, I may add, has also shown that the muscles in the larvae of certain insects are far from uniform. 3jStEors'sometimes argue in a circle when they state that important organs never vary; for these same authors practically rank those parts as important (as some few naturalists have honestly confessed) which do not vary; and, under this point of view, no instance will ever be found of an important part varying; but under any other point of view many instances assuredly can be given.
There is one point connected with individual differences, which is extremely perplexing: I refer to those genera which have been called "protean ' or " polymorphic," in which the species present an inordinate amount ot variation" With respect to many of these forms, hardly two naturalists agree whether to rank them as species or as varieties. We may instance Eubus, Rosa, and Hieracium amongst plants, several genera of insects and of Brachiopod shells. In most polymorphic genera some of the species have fixed and definite characters. Genera which are polymorphic in one country seem to be, with a few exceptions, polymorphic in other countries, and likewise, judging from Brachiopod shells, at former periods of time. These facts are very perplexing, for they seem to show that this kind of variability is independent flf the conditions of life. I am inclined to suspect that we see, at least in some of these polymorphic genera, variations which are of no_servjce.Qrdisservice to the species, aETwhich consequently have not been seized on and rendered definite byTiatural selection, as hereafter to be explained.
Individuals of the same species often present, as is known to every one, great differences of structure, independently of variation, as in the two sexes of various animals, in the two or three castes of sterile females or workers amongst insects, and in the immature and larval states of many of the lower animals. There are, also, cases of dimorphism and trimorphism, both with animals and plants. Thus, MrVWatlaCB, whu LaTTaEely called attention to the subject, has shown that the females of certain species of butterflies, in the Malayan archipelago, regularly appear under two or even three conspicuously distinct forms, not connected by intermediate varieties. Fritz Muller has described analogous but more extraordinary cases with the males of certain Brazilian Crustaceans: thus, the male of a Tanais regularly occurs under two distinct forms; one of these has strong and differently shaped pincers, and the other has antenna? much more abundantly furnished with smel ling-hairs. Although in most of these cases, the two or three forms, both with animals and plants, are not now connected by intermediate gradations, it is probable that'they' were once thus"connected. Mr. Wallace, for instance, describes a certain''butteffiy "wEic¥"presents in the same island a great range of varieties connected by intermediate links, and the extreme links of the chain closely resemble the two forms of an allied dimorphic species inhabiting another part of the Malay archipelago. Thus also with ants, the several worker-castes are generally quite distinct; but in some cases, as we shall hereafter see, the castes are connected together by finely graduated varieties. So it is, as I have myself observed, with some dimorphic plants. It certainly at first appears a 'highly remarkable fact that the same female butterfly should have the power of producing at the same time three distinct female forms and a male; and that an hermaphrodite plant should produce from the same seed-capsule three distinct hermaphrodite forms, bearing three different kinds of females and three or even six different kinds of males. Nevertheless these cases are only exaggerations of the common fact that the female produces offspring of two sexes which sometimes differ from each other in a wonderful manner.
The forms which possess in some considerable degree the character of species, but which are so closely similar to other forms, or are so closely linked to them by intermediate gradations, that naturalists do not like to rank them as distinct species, are in several respects the most important for us. We have every reason to believe that many of these doubtful and closely allied forms have permanently retained their characters for a long time; for as long, as far as we know, as have good and true species. Practically, when a naturalist can unite by means of intermediate linETanv two forms, he treats the one as a variety of the other L-Janking the most common, but sometimes the one first described, as 'thespecies^ and the jither .as_ the_variety. But cases of great difficulty, which I will not here enumerate, sometimes arise in deciding whether or not to rank one form as a variety of another, even when they are closely connected by intermediate links; nor will the commonly-assumed hybrid nature of