Page images
PDF
EPUB

To test the truth of this anticipation I have arranged the plants of twelve countries, and the coleopterous in sects of two districts, into two nearly equal masses, the species of the larger genera on one side, and those of the smaller genera on the other side, and it has invariably proved to be the case that a largerproportion of the species on the side of the larger genera present varieties, than on the side of the smaller genera. Moreover, the species of the large genera which present any varieties, invariably present a larger average number of varieties than do the species of the small genera. Both these results follow when another division is made, and when all the smallest genera, with from only one to four species, are absolutely excluded from the tables. These facts are of plain signification on the view that species are only strongly marked and permanent varieties; for wherever many species of the same genus have been formed, or where, if we may use the expression, the manufactory of species has been active, we ought generally to find the manufactory still in action, more especially as we have every reason to believe the process of manufacturing new species to be a slow one. And this certainly is the case, if varieties be looked at as incipient species; for my tables clearly show as a general rule that, wherever many species of a genus have been formed, the species of that genus present a number of varieties, that is, of incipient species, beyond the average. It is not that all large genera are now varying much, and are thus increasing in the number of their species, or that no small genera are now varying and increasing; for if this had been so, it would have been fatal to my theory; inasmuch as geology plainly tells us that small genera have in the lapse of time often increased greatly in size; and that large generà have often come to their maxima, declined, and disappeared. All that we want to show is, that where many species of a genus have been formed, on an average many are still forming; and this holds good.

There are other relations between the species of large genera and their recorded varieties which deserve notice. We have seen that there is no infallible criterion by which

to distinguish species and well-marked varieties; and in those cases in which intermediate links have not been found between doubtful forms, naturalists are compelled to come to a determination by the amount of difference between them, judging by analogy whether or not the amount suffices to raise one or both to the rank of species. Hence the amount of difference is one very important criterion in settling whether two forms should be ranked as species or varieties. Now Fries has remarked in regard to plants, and Westwood in regard to insects, that in large genera the amount of difference between the species is often exceedingly small. I have endeavoured to test this numerically by averages, and, as far as my imperfect results go, they always confirm the view. I have also consulted some sagacious and most experienced observers, and, after deliberation, they concur in this view. In this respect, therefore, the species of the larger genera resemble varieties, more than do the species of the smaller genera. Or the case may be put in another way, and it may be said, that in the larger genera, in which a number of varieties or incipient species greater than the average are now manufacturing, many of the species already manufactured still to a certain extent resemble varieties, for they differ from each other by a less than usual amount of difference.

Moreover, the species of the larger genera are related to each other, in the same manner as the varieties of any one species are related to each other. No naturalist pretends that all the species of a genus are equally distinct from each other; they may generally be divided into subgenera, or sections, or lesser groups. As Fries has well remarked, little groups of species are generally clustered like satellites around certain other species. And what are varieties but groups of forms, unequally related to each other, and clustered round certain forms-that is, round their parent-species ? Undoubtedly there is one most important point of difference between varieties and species; namely, that the amount of difference between varieties, when compared with each other or with their parentspecies, is much less than that between the species of the

same genus. But when we come to discuss the principle, as I call it, of Divergence of Character, we shall see how this may be explained, and how the lesser differences between varieties will tend to increase into the greater differences between species.

There is one other point which seems to me worth notice. Varieties generally have much restricted ranges : this statement is indeed scarcely more than a truism, for if a variety were found to have a wider range than that of its supposed parent-species, their denominations ought to be reversed. But there is also reason to believe, that those species which are very closely allied to other species, and in so far resemble varieties, often have much restricted ranges. For instance, Mr. H. C. Watson has marked for me in the well-sifted London Catalogue of plants (4th edition) 63 plants which are therein ranked as species, but which he considers as so closely allied to other species as to be of doubtful value: these 63 reputed species range on an average over 6.9 of the provinces into which Mr. Watson has divided Great Britain. Now, in this same catalogue, 53 acknowledged varieties are recorded, and these range over 7.7 provinces; whereas, the species to which these varieties belong range over 14.3 provinces. So that the acknowledged varieties have very nearly the same restricted average range, as have those very closely allied forms, marked for me by Mr. Watson as doubtful species, but which are almost universally ranked by British botanists as good and true species.

Finally, then, varieties have the same general characters as species, for they cannot be distinguished from species, -except, firstly, by the discovery of intermediate linking forms, and the occurrence of such links cannot affect the actual characters of the forms which they connect; and except, secondly, by a certain amount of difference, for two forms, if differing very little, are generally ranked as varieties, notwithstanding that intermediate linking forms have not been discovered; but the amount of difference considered necessary to give to two forms the rank of species is quite indefinite. In genera having more than the average number of species in any country, the species of these genera have more than the average number of varieties. In large genera the species are apt to be closely, but unequally allied together, forming little clusters round certain species. Species very closely allied to other species apparently have restricted ranges. In all these several respects the species of large genera present a strong analogy with varieties. And we can clearly understand these analogies, if species have once existed as varieties, and have thus originated : whereas, these analogies are utterly inexplicable if each species has been independently created.

We have, also, seen that it is the most flourishing and dominant species of the larger genera which on an average vary most; and varieties, as we shall hereafter see, tend to become converted into new and distinct species. The larger genera thus tend to become larger ; and throughout nature the forms of life which are now dominant tend to become still more dominant by leaving many modified and dominant descendants. But by steps hereafter to be explained, the larger genera also tend to break up into smaller genera. And thus, the forms of life throughout the universe become divided into groups subordinate to groups.

CHAPTER III.

STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE.

Bears on natural selection-The term used in a wide sense-Geometrical powers of

increase-Rapid increase of naturalised animals and plants-Nature of the checks to increase-Competition universal-Effects of climate-Protection from the num. ber of individuals-Complex relations of all animals and plants throughout nature -Struggle for life most severe between individuals and varieties of the same spe. cies ; often severe between species of the same genus—The relation of organism to organism the most important of all relations.

BEFORE entering on the subject of this chapter, I must make a few preliminary remarks, to show how the struggle for existence bears on Natural Selection. It has been seen in the last chapter that amongst organic beings in a state of nature there is some individual variability ; indeed I am not aware that this has ever been disputed. It is immaterial for us whether a multitude of doubtful forms be called species or sub-species or varieties; what rank, for instance, the two or three hundred doubtful forms of British plants are entitled to hold, if the existence of any well-marked varieties be admitted. But the mere existence of individual variability and of some few well-marked varieties, though necessary as the foundation for the work, helps us but little in understanding how species arise in nature. How have all those exquisite adaptations of one part of the organisation to another part, and to the conditions of life, and of one distinct organic being to another being, been perfected? We see these beautiful co-adaptations most plainly in the woodpecker and misseltoe; and only a little less plainly in the humblest parasite which clings to the hairs of a quadruped or feathers of a bird ; in the structure of the beetle which dives through the water; in the plumed seed which is wafted by the gentlest breeze; in short, we see beautiful

« PreviousContinue »