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- Darwiniana - 5/52 -


sub-breeds, or species, as he might have called them, could be shown him." That this is not a case like that of dogs, in which probably the blood of more than one species is mingled, Mr. Darwin proceeds to show, adducing cogent reasons for the common opinion that all have descended from the wild rock-pigeon. Then follow some suggestive remarks:

"I have discussed the probable origin of domestic pigeons at some, yet quite insufficient, length; because when I first kept pigeons and watched the several kinds, knowing well how true they bred, I felt fully as much difficulty in believing that they could ever have descended from a common parent as any naturalist could in coming to a similar conclusion in regard to many species of finches, or other large groups of birds, in Nature. One circumstance has struck me much; namely, that all the breeders of the various domestic animals and the cultivators of plants, with whom I have ever conversed, or whose treatises I have read, are firmly convinced that the several breeds to which each has attended are descended from so many aboriginally distinct species. Ask, as I have asked, a celebrated raiser of Hereford cattle, whether his cattle might not have descended from long-horns, and he will laugh you to scorn. I have never met a pigeon, or poultry, or duck, or rabbit fancier, who was not fully convinced that each main breed was descended from a distinct species. Van Mons, in his treatise on pears and apples, shows how utterly he disbelieves that the several sorts, for instance a Ribston-pippin or Codlin-apple, could ever have proceeded from the seeds of the same tree. Innumerable other examples could be given. The explanation, I think, is simple: from long-continued study they arc strongly impressed with the differences between the several races; and though they well know that each race varies slightly, for they win their prizes by selecting such slight differences, yet they ignore all general arguments, and refuse to sum up in their minds slight differences accumulated during many successive generations. May not those naturalists who, knowing far less of the laws of inheritance than does the breeder, and knowing no more than he does of the intermediate links in the long lines of descent, yet admit that many of our domestic races have descended from the same parents--may they not learn a lesson of caution, when they deride the idea of species in a state of nature being lineal descendants of other species?"

The actual causes of variation are unknown. Mr. Darwin favors the opinion of the late Mr. Knight, the great philosopher of horticulture, that variability tinder domestication is somehow connected with excess of food. He regards the unknown cause as acting chiefly upon the reproductive system of the parents, which system, judging from the effect of confinement or cultivation upon its functions, he concludes to be more susceptible than any other to the action of changed conditions of life. The tendency to vary certainly appears to be much stronger under domestication than in free Nature. But we are not sure that the greater variableness of cultivated races is not mainly owing to the far greater opportunities for manifestation and accumulation--a view seemingly all the more favorable to Mr. Darwin's theory. The actual amount of certain changes, such as size or abundance of fruit, size of udder, stands of course in obvious relation to supply of food. Really, we no more know the reason why the progeny occasionally deviates from the parent than we do why it usually resembles it. Though the laws and conditions governing variation are known to a certain extent, those governing inheritance are apparently inscrutable. "Perhaps," Darwin remarks, "the correct way of viewing the whole subject would be, to look at the inheritance of every character whatever as the rule, and non-inheritance as the anomaly." This, from general and obvious considerations, we have long been accustomed to do. Now, as exceptional instances are expected to be capable of explanation, while ultimate laws are not, it is quite possible that variation may be accounted for, while the great primary law of inheritance remains a mysterious fact.

The common proposition is, that species reproduce their like; this is a sort of general inference, only a degree closer to fact than the statement that genera reproduce their like. The true proposition, the fact incapable of further analysis, is, that individuals reproduce their like--that characteristics are inheritable. So varieties, or deviations, once originated, are perpetuable, like species. Not so likely to be perpetuated, at the outset; for the new form tends to resemble a grandparent and a long line of similar ancestors, as well as to resemble its immediate progenitors. Two forces which coincide in the ordinary case, where the offspring resembles its parent, act in different directions when it does not and it is uncertain which will prevail. If the remoter but very potent ancestral influence predominates, the variation disappears with the life of the individual. If that of the immediate parent--feebler no doubt, but closer--the variety survives in the offspring; whose progeny now has a redoubled tendency to produce its own like; whose progeny again is almost sure to produce its like, since it is much the same whether it takes after its mother or its grandmother.

In this way races arise, which under favorable conditions may be as hereditary as species. In following these indications, watching opportunities, and breeding only from those individuals which vary most in a desirable direction, man leads the course of variation as he leads a streamlet--apparently at will, but never against the force of gravitation--to a long distance from its source, and makes it more subservient to his use or fancy. He unconsciously strengthens those variations which he prizes when he plants the seed of a favorite fruit, preserves a favorite domestic animal, drowns the uglier kittens of a litter, and allows only the handsomest or the best mousers to propagate. Still more, by methodical selection, in recent times almost marvelous results have been produced in new breeds of cattle, sheep, and poultry, and new varieties of fruit of greater and greater size or excellence.

It is said that all domestic varieties, if left to run wild, would revert to their aboriginal stocks. Probably they would wherever various races of one species were left to commingle. At least the abnormal or exaggerated characteristics induced by high feeding, or high cultivation and prolonged close breeding, would promptly disappear; and the surviving stock would soon blend into a homogeneous result (in a way presently explained), which would naturally be taken for the original form; but we could seldom know if it were so. It is by no means certain that the result would be the same if the races ran wild each in a separate region. Dr. Hooker doubts if there is a true reversion in the case of plants. Mr. Darwin's observations rather favor it in the animal kingdom. With mingled races reversion seems well made out in the case of pigeons. The common opinion upon this subject therefore probably has some foundation, But even if we regard varieties as oscillations around a primitive centre or type, still it appears from the readiness with which such varieties originate that a certain amount of disturbance would carry them beyond the influence of the primordial attraction, where they may become new centres of variation.

Some suppose that races cannot be perpetuated indefinitely even by keeping up the conditions under which they were fixed; but the high antiquity of several, and the actual fixity of many of them, negative this assumption. "To assert that we could not breed our cart and race horses, long and short horned cattle, and poultry of various breeds, for almost an infinite number of generations, would be opposed to all experience."

Why varieties develop so readily and deviate so widely under domestication, while they are apparently so rare or so transient in free Nature, may easily be shown. In Nature, even with hermaphrodite plants, there is a vast amount of cross-fertilization among various individuals of the same species. The inevitable result of this (as was long ago explained in this Journal [I-7]) is to repress variation, to keep the mass of a species comparatively homogeneous over any area in which it abounds in individuals. Starting from a suggestion of the late Mr. Knight, now so familiar, that close interbreeding diminishes vigor and fertility; [I-8] and perceiving that bisexuality is ever aimed at in Nature--being attained physiologically in numerous cases where it is not structurally--Mr. Darwin has worked out the subject in detail, and shown how general is the concurrence, either habitual or occasional, of two hermaphrodite individuals in the reproduction of their kind; and has drawn the philosophical inference that probably no organic being self-fertilizes indefinitely; but that a cross with another individual is occasionally--perhaps at very long intervals--indispensable. We refer the reader to the section on the intercrossing of individuals (pp. 96--101), and also to an article in the Gardeners' Chronicle a year and a half ago, for the details of a very interesting contribution to science, irrespective of theory. In domestication, this intercrossing may be prevented; and in this prevention lies the art of producing varieties. But "the art itself is Nature," since the whole art consists in allowing the most universal of all natural tendencies in organic things (inheritance) to operate uncontrolled by other and obviously incidental tendencies. No new power, no artificial force, is brought into play either by separating the stock of a desirable variety so as to prevent mixture, or by selecting for breeders those individuals which most largely partake of the peculiarities for which the breed is valued. {I-9]

We see everywhere around us the remarkable results which Nature may be said to have brought about under artificial selection and separation. Could she accomplish similar results when left to herself? Variations might begin, we know they do begin, in a wild state. But would any of them be preserved and carried to an equal degree of deviation? Is there anything in Nature which in the long-run may answer to artificial selection? Mr. Darwin thinks that there is; and Natural Selection is the key-note of his discourse,

As a preliminary, he has a short chapter to show that there is variation in Nature, and therefore something for natural selection to act upon. He readily shows that such mere variations as may be directly referred to physical conditions (like the depauperation of plants in a sterile soil, or their dwarfing as they approach an Alpine summit, the thicker fur of an animal from far northward, etc.), and also those individual differences which we everywhere recognize but do not pretend to account for, are not separable by any assignable line from more strongly-marked varieties; likewise that there is no clear demarkation between the latter and sub-species, or varieties of the highest grade (distinguished from species not by any known inconstancy, but by the supposed lower importance of their characteristics); nor between these and recognized species. "These differences blend into each other in an insensible series, and the series impresses the mind with an idea of an actual passage."

This gradation from species downward is well made out. To carry it one step farther upward, our author presents in a strong light the differences which prevail among naturalists as to what forms should be admitted to the rank of species. Some genera (and these in some countries) give rise to far more discrepancy than others; and it is concluded that the large or dominant genera are usually the most variable. In a flora so small as the British, 182 plants, generally reckoned as varieties, have been ranked by some botanists as species. Selecting the British genera which include the most polymorphous forms, it appears that Babington's Flora gives them 251 species, Bentham's only 112, a difference of 139 doubtful forms. These are nearly the extreme views, but they are the views of two most capable and most experienced judges, in respect to one of the best-known floras of the world. The fact is suggestive, that the best-known countries furnish the greatest number of such doubtful cases. Illustrations of this kind may be multiplied to a great extent. They make it plain that, whether species in Nature are aboriginal and definite or not, our practical conclusions about them, as embodied in systematic works, are not facts but judgments, and largely fallible judgments-

How much of the actual coincidence of authorities is owing to imperfect or restricted observation, and to one naturalist's adopting the conclusions of another without independent observation, this is not the place to consider. It is our impression that species of animals are more definitely marked than those of plants; this may arise from our somewhat extended acquaintance with the latter, and our ignorance of the former. But we are constrained by our experience to admit the strong likelihood, in botany,


Darwiniana - 5/52

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