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It is scarcely possible that the above slight movements, due to B touch or shake, in the young and growing organs of plants, can be of any functional importance to them. But plants possess, in obedience to various stimuli, powers of movement, which are of manifest importance to them; for instance, towards and more rarely from the light,—in opposition to, and more rarely in the direction of, the attraction of gravity. When the nerves and muscles of an animal are excited by galvanism or by the absorption of strychnine, the consequent movements may be called an incidental result, for the nerves and muscles have not been rendered specially sensitive to these stimuli. So with plants it appears that, from having the power of movement in obedience to certain stimuli, they are excited in an incidental manner by two touch, or by being shaken. Hence there is no great difficulty in admitting that in the case of leafclimbers and tendril-bearers, it is this tendency which has been taken advantage of and increased through natural selection. It is, however, probable, from reasons which I have assigned in my memoir, that this will have occurred only with plants which had already acquired the power of revolving, and had thus become twiners.
I have already endeavoured to explain how plants became twiners, namely, by the increase of a tendency to slight and irregular revolving movements, which were at first of no use to them; this movement, as well as that due to a touch or shake, being the incidental result of the power of moving, gained for other and beneficial purposes. Whether, during the gradual development of climbing plants, natural selection has been aided by the inherited effects of use, I will not pretend to decide; but we know that certain periodical movements, for instance the so-called sleep of plants, are governed by habit.
I have now considered enough, perhaps more than enough, of the cases, selected with care by a skilful naturalist, to prove that natural selection is incompetent to account for the incipient stages of useful structures; and I have shown, as I hope, that there is no great difficulty on this head. A good opportunity has thus been afforded for enlarging a little on gradations of structure, often associated with changed functions,—an important subject, which was not treated at sufficient length in the former editions of this work. I will now briefly recapitulate the foregoing cases.
With the giraffe, the continued preservation of the individuals of some extinct high-reaching ruminant, which had the longest necks, legs, &c, and could browse a little above the average height, and the continual destruction of those which could not browse so high, would have sufficed for the production of this remarkable quadruped; but the prolonged use of all the parts together with inheritance will have aided in an important manner in their co-ordination. With the many insects which imitate various objects, there is no improbability in the belief that an accidental resemblance to some common object was in each case the foundation for the work of natural selection, since perfected through the occasional preservation of slight variations which made the resemblance at all closer; and this will have been carried on as long as the insect continued to vary, and as long as a more and more perfect resemblance led to its escape from sharp-sighted enemies. In certain species of whales there is a tendency to the formation of irregular little points of horn on the palate ; and it seems to be quite within the scope of natural selection to preserve all favourable variations, until the points were converted first into lamellated knobs or teeth, like those on the beak of a goose,—then into short lamellae, like those of the domestic ducks,—and then into lamellae, as perfect as those of the shovellerduck,—and finally into the gigantic plates of baleen, as in the mouth of the Greenland whale. In the family of the ducks, the lamelke are first used as teeth, then partly as teeth and partly as a sifting apparatus, and at last almost exclusively for this latter purpose.
With such structures as the above lamellae of horn or whalebone, habit or use can have done little or nothing, as far as wo can judge, towards their development. On the other hand, the transportal of the lower eye of a flat-fish to the upper side of the head, and the formation of a prehensile tail, may be attributed almost wholly to continued use, together with inheritance. With respect to the mammas of the higher animals, the most probable conjecture is that primordially the cutaneous glands over the whole surface of a marsupial sack secreted B nutritious fluid; and that these glands were improved in function through natural selection, and concentrated into a confined area, in which case they would have formed a mamma. There is no more difficulty in understanding how the branched spines of some ancient Echinoderm, which served as a defence, became developed through natural selection into tridactyle pedicellariae, than in understanding the development of the pincers of crustaceans, through slight, serviceable modifications in the ultimate and penultimate segments of a limb, which was at first used solely for locomotion. In the avicularia and vibracula of the Polyzoa we have organs widely different in appearance developed trom the same source; and with the vibracula we can understand how the successive gradations might have been
of service. With the poliinia of orchids, the threads which originally served to tie together the pollen-grains, can he traced cohering into caudicles; and the steps can likewise be followed by which viscid matter, such as that secreted by the stigmas of ordinary flowers, and still subserving nearly but not quite the same purpose, became attached to the free ends of the caudicles;—all these gradations being of manifest benefit to the plants in question. With respect to climbing plants, I need not repeat what has been so lately said.
It has often been asked, if natural selection be so potent, why has not this or that structure been gained by certain species, to which it would apparently have been advantageous? But it is unreasonable to expect a precise answer to such questions, considering our ignorance of the past history of each species, and of the conditions which at the present day determine its numbers and range. In most cases only general reasons, but in some few cases special reasons, can be assigned. Thus to adapt a species to new habits of life, many coordinated modifications are almost indispensable, and it may often have happened that the requisite parts did not vary in the right manner or to the right degree. Many species must have been prevented from increasing in numbers through destructive agencies, which stood in no relation to certain structures, which we imagine would have been gained through natural selection from appearing to us advantageous to the species. In this case, as the struggle for life did not depend on such structures, they could not have been acquired through natural selection. In many cases complex and long-enduring conditions, often of a peculiar nature, are necessary for the development of a structure; and the requisite conditions may seldom have concurred. The belief that any given
, which we think, often erroneously, would have been to a species, would have been gained under all circum
u rough natural selection, is opposed to what we can under- its manner of action. Mr. Mivart does not deny that
selection has effected something; but he considers it as "demonstrably insufficient" to account for the phenomena which I expalin by its agency. His chief arguments have now been considered, and the others will hereafter be considered. They seem to me to partake little of the character of demonstration, and to have little weight in comparison with those in favour of the power of natural selection, aided by the other agencies often specified. I am bound to add, that some of the facts and arguments here used by me, have been advanced for the same purpose in an able article lately published in the 'Medico-Chirurgical Review.'
At the present day almost all naturalists admit evolution under some form. Mr. Mivart believes that species change through "an internal force or tendency," about which it is not pretended that anything is known. That species have a capacity for change will be admitted by all evolutionists; but there is no need, as it seems to me, to invoke any internal force beyond the tendency to ordinary variability, which through the aid of selection by man has given rise to many well-adapted domestic races, and which through the aid of natural selection would equally well give rise by graduated steps to natural races or species. The final result will generally have been, as already explained, an advance, but in some few cases a retrogression, in organisation.
Mr. Mivart is further inclined to believe, and some naturalists agree with him, that new species manifest themselves "with suddenness and by modifications appearing at once." For instance, he supposes that the differences between the extinct three-toed Hipparion and the horse arose suddenly. He thinks it difficult to believe that the wing of a bird " was developed in any other way than by a comparatively sudden modification of a marked and important kind;" and apparently he would extend the same view to the wings of bats and pterodactyles. This conclusion, which implies great breaks or discontinuity in the series, appears to me improbable in the highest degree.
Every one who believes in slow and gradual evolution, will of course admit that specific changes may have been as abrupt and as great as any single variation which we meet with under nature, or even under domestication. But as species are more variable when domesticated or cultivated than under their natural conditions, it is not probable that such great and abrupt variations have often occurred under nature, as are known occasionally to arise under domestication. Of these latter variations seVeral may be attributed to reversion; and the characters which thus reappear were, it is probable, in many cases at first gained in a gradual • manner. A still greater number must be called monstrosities, such as six-fingered men, porcupine men, Ancon sheep, Niata cattle, &c; and as they are widely different in character from natural species, they throw very little light on our subject. Excluding such cases of abrupt variations, the few which remain would at best constitute, if found in a state of nature, doubtful species, closely related to their parental types.
My reasons for doubting whether natural species have changed as abruptly as have occasionally domestic races, and for entirely disbelieving that they have changed in the wonderful manner indicated by Mr. Mivart, are as follows. According to our experience, abrupt and strongly marked variations occur in our domesticated productions, singly and at rather long intervals of time. If such occurred under nature, they would be liable, as formerly explained, to be lost by accidental causes of destruction and by subsequent inter-crossing; and so it is known to be under domestication, unless abrupt variations of this kind are specially preserved and separated by the care of man. Hence in order that a new species should suddenly appear in the manner supposed by Mr. Mivart, it is almost necessary to believe, in opposition to all analogy, that several wonderfully changed individuals appeared simultaneously within the same district. This difficulty, as in the case of unconscious selection by man, is avoided on the theory of gradual evolution, through the preservation of a large number of individuals, which varied more or less in any favourable direction, and of the destruction of a large number which varied in an opposite manner.
That many species have been evolved in an extremely gradual manner, there can hardly be a doubt. The species and even the genera of many large natural families are so closely allied together, that it is difficult to distinguish not a few of them. On every continent in proceeding from north to south, from lowland to uplaud, &c, we meet with a host of closely related or representative species; as we likewise do on certain distinct continents, which we have reason to believe were formerly connected. But in making these and the following remarks, I am compelled to allude to subjects hereafter to be discussed. Look at the many outlying islands round a continent, and see how many of their inhabitants can be raised only to the rank of doubtful species. So it is if we look to past times, and compare the species which have just passed away with those still living within the same areas; or if we compare the fossil species embedded in the sub-stages of the same geological formation. It is indeed manifest that multitudes of species are related in the closest manner to other species that still exist, or have lately existed; and it will hardly be maintained that such species have been developed in an abrupt or sudden manner. Nor should it be forgotten, when we look to the special parts of allied species, instead of to distinct species, that numerous and wonderfully fine gradetions can be traced, connecting together widely different structures.
Many large groups of facts are intelligible only on the principle that species have been evolved by very small steps. For instance, the fact that the species included in the larger genera are more closely related to each other, and present a greater number of varieties than do the species in the smaller genera. The former are also