A Critique of the Theory of Evolution/II
THE BEARING OF MENDEL'S DISCOVERY ON THE ORIGIN OF HEREDITARY CHARACTERS
Between the years 1857 and 1868 Gregor Mendel, Augustinian monk, studied the heredity of certain characters of the common edible pea, in the garden of the monastery at Brünn.
In his account of his work written in 1868, he said:
- "It requires indeed some courage to undertake a labor of such a far-reaching extent; it appears, however, to be the only right way by which we can finally reach the solution of a question the importance of which cannot be over-estimated in connection with the history of the evolution of organic forms."
He tells us also why he selected peas for his work:
- "The selection of the plant group which shall serve for experiments of this kind must be made with all possible care if it be desired to avoid from the outset every risk of questionable results."
- "The experimental plants must necessarily
- 1. Possess constant differentiating characters.
- 2. The hybrids of such plants must, during the flowering period, be protected from the influence of all foreign pollen, or be easily capable of such protection."
Why do biologists throughout the world to-day agree that Mendel's discovery is one of first rank?
A great deal might be said in this connection. What is essential may be said in a few words. Biology had been, and is still, largely a descriptive and speculative science. Mendel showed by experimental proof that heredity could be explained by a simple mechanism. His discovery has been exceedingly fruitful.
Science begins with naïve, often mystic conceptions of its problems. It reaches its goal whenever it can replace its early guessing by verifiable hypotheses and predictable results. This is what Mendel's law did for heredity.
Mendel's First Discovery—Segregation
Let us turn to the demonstration of his first law—the law of segregation. The first case I choose is not the one given by Mendel but one worked out later by Correns. If the common garden plant called four o'clock (Mirabilis jalapa) with red flowers is crossed to one having white flowers, the offspring are pink (fig. 13). The hybrid, then, is intermediate in the color of its flowers between the two parents. If these hybrids are inbred the offspring are white, pink and red, in the proportion of 1:2:1. All of these had the same ancestry, yet they are of three different kinds. If we did not know their history it would be quite impossible to state what the ancestry of the white or of the red had been, for they might just as well have come from pure white and pure red ancestors respectively as to have emerged from the pink hybrids. Moreover, when we test them we find that they are as pure as are white or red flowering plants that have had all white or all red flowering ancestors.
Mendel's Law explains the results of this cross as shown in figure 14.
The egg cell from the white parent carries the factor for white, the pollen cell from the red parent carries the factor for red. The hybrid formed by their union carries both factors. The result of their combined action is to produce flowers intermediate in color.
When the hybrids mature and their germ cells (eggs or pollen) ripen, each carries only one of these factors, either the red or the white, but not both. In other words, the two factors that have been brought together in the hybrid separate in its germ cells. Half of the egg cells are white bearing, half red bearing. Half of the pollen cells are white bearing, half redbearing. Chance combinations at fertilization give the three classes of individuals of the second generation.
The white flowering plants should forever breed true, as in fact they do. The red flowering plants also breed true. The pink flowering plants, having the same composition as the hybrids of the first generation, should give the same kind of result. They do, indeed, give this result i.e. one white to two pink to one red flowered offspring.
Another case of the same kind is known to breeders of poultry. One of the most beautiful of the domesticated breeds is known as the Andalusian. It is a slate blue bird shading into blue-black on the neck and back. Breeders know that these blue birds do not breed true but produce white, black, and blue offspring.
The explanation of the failure to produce a pure race of Andalusians is that they are like the pink flowers of the four o'clock, i.e., they are a hybrid type formed by the meeting of the white and the black germ cells. If the whites produced by the Andalusians are bred to the blacks (both being pure strains), all the offspring will be blue (fig. 15); if these blues are inbred they will give 1 white, to 2 blues, to 1black. In other words, the factor for white and the factor for black separate in the germ cells of the hybrid Andalusian birds (fig. 16).
The third case is Mendel's classical case of yellow and green peas (fig. 17). He crossed a plant belonging to a race having yellow peas with one having green peas. The hybrid plants had yellow seeds. These hybrids inbred gave three yellows to one green. The explanation(fig. 18) is the same in principle as in the preceding cases. The only difference between them is that the hybrid which contains both the yellow and the green factors is in appearance not intermediate, but like the yellow parent stock. Yellow is said therefore to be dominant and green to be recessive.
Another example where one of the contrasted characters is dominant is shown by the cross of Drosophila with vestigial wings to the wild type with long wings (fig. 19). The F1 flies have long wings not differing from those of the wild fly, so far as can be observed. When two such flies are inbred there result three long to one vestigial.
The question as to whether a given character is dominant or recessive is a matter of no theoretical importance for the principle of segregation, although from the notoriety given to it one might easily be misled into the erroneous supposition that it was the discovery of this relation that is Mendel's crowning achievement.
Let me illustrate by an example in which the hybrid standing between two types overlaps them both. There are two mutant races in our cultures of the fruit fly Drosophila that have dark body color, one called sooty, another which is even blacker, called ebony (fig. 20). Sooty crossed to ebony gives offspring that are intermediate in color. Some of them are so much like sooty that they cannot be distinguished from sooty. At the other extreme some of the hybrids are as dark as the lightest of the ebony flies. If these hybrids are inbred there is a continuous series of individuals, sooties, intermediates and ebonies. Which color here shall we call the dominant? If the ebony, then in the second generation we count three ebonies to one sooty, putting the hybrids with the ebonies. If the dominant is the sooty then we count threesooties to one ebony, putting the hybrids with the sooties. The important fact to find out is whether there actually exist three classes in the second generation. This can be ascertained even when, as in this case, there is a perfectly graded series from one end to the other, by testing out individually enough of the flies to show that one-fourth of them never produce any descendants but ebonies, one-fourth never any but sooties, and one-half of them give rise to both ebony and sooty.
Mendel's Second Discovery—Independent Assortment
Besides his discovery that there are pairs of characters that disjoin, as it were, in the germ cells of the hybrid (law of segregation) Mendel made a second discovery which also has far-reaching consequences. The following case illustrates Mendel's second law.
If a pea that is yellow and round is crossed to one that is green and wrinkled (fig. 21), all of the offspring are yellow and round. Inbred, these give 9 yellow round, 3 green round, 3 yellow wrinkled, 1 green wrinkled. All the yellows taken together are to the green as 3:1. All the round taken together are to the wrinkled as three to one; but some of the yellows are now wrinkled and some of the green are nowround. There has been a recombination of characters, while at the same time the results, for each pair of characters taken separately, are in accord with Mendel's Law of Segregation, (fig. 22). The second law of Mendel may be called the law of independent assortment of different character pairs.
We can, as it were, take the characters of one organism and recombine them with thoseof a different organism. We can explain this result as due to the assortment of factors for these characters in the germ cells according to a definite law.
As a second illustration let me take theclassic case of the combs of fowls. If a bird with a rose comb is bred to one with a pea comb (fig. 23), the offspring have a comb different from either. It is called a walnut comb. If two such individuals are bred they give 9 walnut, 3 rose, 3 pea, 1 single. This proportion shows that the grandparental types differed in respect to two pairs of characters.
A fourth case is shown in the fruit fly, where an ebony fly with long wings is mated to a grey fly with vestigial wings (fig. 24). Theoffspring are gray with long wings. If these are inbred they give 9 gray long, 3 gray vestigial, 3 ebony long, 1 ebony vestigial (figs. 24 and 25).
The possibility of interchanging characters might be illustrated over and over again. It is true not only when two pairs of characters are involved, but when three, four, or more enter the cross.
It is as though we took individuals apart and put together parts of two, three or more individuals by substituting one part for another.
Not only has this power to make whatever combinations we choose great practical importance, it has even greater theoretical significance; for, it follows that the individual is not in itself the unit in heredity, but that within the germ-cells there exist smaller units concerned with the transmission of characters.
The older mystical statement of the individual as a unit in heredity has no longer any interest in the light of these discoveries, except as a past phase of biological history. We see, too, more clearly that the sorting out of factors in the germ plasm is a very different process from the influence of these factors on the development of the organism. There is today no excuse for confusing these two problems.
If mechanistic principles apply also to embryonic development then the course of development is capable of being stated as a series of chemico-physical reactions and the "individual" is merely a term to express the sum total of such reactions and should not be interpreted as something different from or more than these reactions. So long as so little is known of the actual processes involved indevelopment the use of the term "individuality", while giving the appearance of profundity, in reality often serves merely to cover ignorance and to make a mystery out of a mechanism.
The Characters of Wild Animals and Plants Follow the Same Laws of Inheritance as do the Characters of Domesticated Animals and Plants.
Darwin based many of his conclusions concerning variation and heredity on the evidence derived from the garden and from the stock farm. Here he was handicapped to some extent, for he had at times to rely on information much of which was uncritical, and some of which was worthless.
Today we are at least better informed on two important points; one concerning the kinds of variations that furnish to the cultivator the materials for his selection; the other concerning the modes of inheritance of these variations. We know now that new characters are continually appearing in domesticated as well as in wild animals and plants, that these characters are often sharply markedoff from the original characters, and whether the differences are great or whether they are small they are transmitted alike according to Mendel's law.
Many of the characteristics of our domesticated animals and cultivated plants originated long ago, and only here and there have the records of their first appearance been preserved. In only a few instances are these records clear and definite, while the complete history of any large group of our domesticated products is unknown to us.
Within the last five or six years, however, from a common wild species of fly, the fruit fly, Drosophila ampelophila, which we have brought into the laboratory, have arisen over a hundred and twenty-five new types whose origin is completely known. Let me call attention to a few of the more interesting of these types and their modes of inheritance, comparing them with wild types in order to show that the kinds of inheritance found in domesticated races occur also in wild types. The results will show beyond dispute that the characters of wild types are inherited in preciselythe same way as are the characters of the mutant types—a fact that is not generally appreciated except by students of genetics, although it is of the most far-reaching significance for the theory of evolution.
A mutant appeared in which the eye color of the female was different from that of the male. The eye color of the mutant female is a dark eosin color, that of the male yellowish eosin. From the beginning this difference was as marked as it is to-day. Breeding experiments show that eosin eye color differs from the red color of the eye of the wild fly by a single mutant factor. Here then at a single step a type appeared that was sexually dimorphic.
Zoölogists know that sexual dimorphism is not uncommon in wild species of animals, and Darwin proposed the theory of sexual selection to account for the difference between the sexes. He assumed that the male preferred certain kinds of females differing from himself in a particular character, and thus in time through sexual selection, the sexes came to differ from each other.
In the case of eosin eye color no such process as that postulated by Darwin to account for the differences between the sexes was involved; for the single mutation that brought about the change also brought in the dimorphism with it.
In recent years zoölogists have carefully studied several cases in which two types of female are found in the same species. In the common clover butterfly, there is a yellow and a white type of female, while the male is yellow (fig. 26). It has been shown that a single factor difference determines whether the femaleis yellow or white. The inheritance is, according to Gerould, strictly Mendelian.
In Papilio turnus there exist, in the southern states, two kinds of females, one yellow like the male, one black (fig. 27). The evidence here is not so certain, but it seems probable that a single factor difference determines whether the female shall be yellow or black.
Finally in Papilio polytes of Ceylon and India three different types of females appear,(fig. 28 to right) only one of which is like the male. Here the analysis of the breeding data shows the possibility of explaining this case as due to two pairs Mendelian factors which give in combination the three types of female.
Taking these cases together, they furnish a much simpler explanation than the one proposed by Darwin. They show also that characters like these shown by wild species may follow Mendel's law.
There has appeared in our cultures a fly in which the third division of the thorax with its appendages has changed into a segment like the second (fig. 29). It is smaller than the normal mesothorax and its wings are imperfectly developed, but the bristles on the upper surface may have the typical arrangement of the normal mesothorax. The mutant shows how great a change may result from a single factor difference.
A factor that causes duplication in the legshas also been found. Here the interesting fact was discovered (Hoge) that duplication takes place only in the cold. At ordinary temperatures the legs are normal.
In contrast to the last case, where a character is doubled, is the next one in which the eyes are lost (fig. 30). This change also took place at a single step. All the flies of this stock however, cannot be said to be eyeless, since many of them show pieces of the eye—indeed the variation is so wide that the eye may even appear like a normal eye unless carefullyexamined. Formerly we were taught that eyeless animals arose in caves. This case shows that they may also arise suddenly in glass milk bottles, by a change in a single factor.
I may recall in this connection that wingless flies (fig. 5 f) also arose in our cultures by a single mutation. We used to be told that wingless insects occurred on desert islands because those insects that had the best developed wings had been blown out to sea. Whether this is true or not, I will not pretend to say, but at any rate wingless insects may also arise, not through a slow process of elimination, but at a single step.
The preceding examples have all related to recessive characters. The next one is dominant.
A single male appeared with a narrow vertical red bar (fig. 31) instead of the broad red oval eye. Bred to wild females the new character was found to dominate, at least to the extent that the eyes of all its offspring were narrower than the normal eye, although not so narrow as the eye of the pure stock. Around the bar there is a wide border that corresponds to the region occupied by the rest of the eye of the wild fly. It lacks however the elements of the eye. It is therefore to be looked upon as a rudimentary organ, which is, so to speak, a by-product of the dominant mutation.
The preceding cases have all involved rather great changes in some one organ of the body. The following three cases involve slight changes, and yet follow the same laws of inheritance as do the larger changes.
At the base of the wings a minute black speck appeared (fig. 32). It was found to be a Mendelian character. In another case the spines on the thorax became forked or kinky (fig. 52b). This stock breeds true, and the character is inherited in strictly Mendelian fashion.
In a certain stock a number of flies appearedin which the wing pads did not expand (fig. 33). It was found that this peculiarity is shown in only about twenty per cent of the individuals supposed to inherit it. Later it was found that this stock lacked two bristles on the sides of the thorax. By means of this knowledge the heredity of the character was easily determined. It appears that while the expansion of the wing pads fails to occur once in five times—probably because it is an environmental effect peculiar to this stock,—yet the minute difference of the presence or absence of the two lateral bristles is a constant feature of the flies that carry this particular factor.
In the preceding cases I have spoken as though a factor influenced only one part of the body. It would have been more accurate to have stated that the chief effect of the factor was observed in a particular part of the body. Most students of genetics realize that a factor difference usually affects more than a single character. For example, a mutant stock called rudimentary wings has as its principle characteristic very short wings (fig. 34). But the factor for rudimentary wings also produces othereffects as well. The females are almost completely sterile, while the males are fertile. The viability of the stock is poor. When flies with rudimentary wings are put into competition with wild flies relatively few of the rudimentary flies come through, especially if the culture is crowded. The hind legs are also shortened. All of these effects are the results of a single factor-difference.
One may venture the guess that some of the specific and varietal differences that arecharacteristic of wild types and which at the same time appear to have no survival value, are only by-products of factors whose most important effect is on another part of the organism where their influence is of vital importance.
It is well known that systematists make use of characters that are constant for groups of species, but which do not appear in themselves to have an adaptive significance. If we may suppose that the constancy of such characters may be only an index of the presence of a factor whose chief influence is in some other direction or directions, some physiological influence, for example, we can give at least a reasonable explanation of the constancy of such characters.
I am inclined to think that an overstatement to the effect that each factor may affect the entire body, is less likely to do harm than to state that each factor affects only a particular character. The reckless use of the phrase "unit character" has done much to mislead the uninitiated as to the effects that a single change in the germ plasm may produce on the organism. Fortunately, the expression "unit character"is being less used by those students of genetics who are more careful in regard to the implications of their terminology.
There is a class of cases of inheritance, due to the XY chromosomes, that is called sex linked inheritance. It is shown both by mutant characters and characters of wild species.
For instance, white eye color in Drosophila shows sex linked inheritance. If a white eyed male is mated to a wild red eyed female (fig. 35) all the offspring have red eyes. If these are inbred, there are three red to one white eyed offspring, but white eyes occur only in the males. The grandfather has transmitted his peculiarity to half of his grandsons, but to none of his granddaughters.
The reciprocal cross (fig. 36) is also interesting. If a white eyed female is bred to a red eyed male, all of the daughters have red eyes and all of the sons have white eyes. We call this criss-cross inheritance. If these offspring are inbred, they produce equal numbers of red eyed and white eyed females and equal numbers of red eyed and white eyed males. The ratio is 1: 1: 1: 1, or ignoring sex, 2 reds to 2 whites, and not the usual 3:1 Mendelian ratio. Yet, as will be shown later, the result is in entire accord with Mendel's principle of segregation.
It has been shown by Sturtevant that in a wild species of Drosophila, viz., D. repleta, two varieties of individuals exist, in one of which the thorax has large splotches and in theother type smaller splotches (fig. 37). The factors that differentiate these varieties are sex linked.
Certain types of color blindness (fig. 38) and certain other abnormal conditions in man such as haemophilia, are transmitted as sex linked characters.
In domestic fowls sex linked inheritance has been found as the characteristic method of transmission for at least as many as six characters, but here the relation of the sexes is in a sense reversed. For instance, if a black Langshan hen is crossed to a barred Plymouth Rock cock (fig. 39), the offspring are all barred. If these are inbred half of the daughters are black and half are barred; all of the sons are barred. The grandmother has transmitted her color to half of her granddaughters but to none of her grandsons.
In the reciprocal cross (fig. 40) black cock by barred hen, the daughters are black and the sons barred—criss-cross inheritance. These inbred give black hens and black cocks, barred hens and barred cocks.
There is a case comparable to this found in a wild species of moth, Abraxas grossulariata. A wild variation of this type is lighter in color and is known as A. lacticolor. When these two types are crossed they exhibit exactly the same type of heredity as does the black-barred combination in the domestic fowl. As shown in figure 41, lacticolor female bred to grossulariata male gives grossulariata sons and daughters. These inbred give grossulariata males and females and lacticolor females. Reciprocally lacticolor male by grossulariata female, (fig. 42) gives lacticolor daughters and grossulariata sons and these inbred give grossulariata males and females and lacticolor males and females.
It has been found that there may be even more than two factors that show Mendelian segregation when brought together in pairs. For example, in the southern States there are several races of the grouse locust (Paratettix) that differ from each other markedly in color patterns (fig. 43). When any two individuals of these races are crossed they give, as Nabours has shown, in F2 a Mendelian ratio of 1: 2: 1. It is obvious, therefore, that there are here at least nine characters, any two of which behave as a Mendelian pair. These races havearisen in nature and differ definitely and strikingly from each other, yet any two differ by only one factor difference.
Similar relations have been found in a number of domesticated races. In mice there is a quadruple system represented by the gray house mouse, the white bellied, the yellow and the black mouse (fig. 44). In rabbits there is probably a triple system, that includes the albino, the Himalayan, and the black races. Inthe silkworm moth there have been described four types of larvae, distinguished by different color markings, that form a system of quadruple allelomorphs. In Drosophila there is a quintuple system of factors in the sex chromosome represented by eye colors, a triple system of body colors, and a triple system of factors for eye colors in the third chromosome.
Mutation and Evolution
What bearing has the appearance of these new types of Drosophila on the theory of evolution may be asked. The objection has been raised in fact that in the breeding work with Drosophila we are dealing with artificial and unnatural conditions. It has been more than implied that results obtained from the breeding pen, the seed pan, the flower pot and the milk bottle do not apply to evolution in the "open", nature "at large" or to "wild" types. To be consistent, this same objection should be extended to the use of the spectroscope in the study of the evolution of the stars, to the use of the test tube and the balance by the chemist, of the galvanometer by the physicist. All theseare unnatural instruments used to torture Nature's secrets from her. I venture to think that the real antithesis is not between unnatural and natural treatment of Nature, but rather between controlled or verifiable data on the one hand, and unrestrained generalization on the other.
If a systematist were asked whether these new races of Drosophila are comparable to wild species, he would not hesitate for a moment. He would call them all one species. If he were asked why, he would say, I think, "These races differ only in one or two striking points, while in a hundred other respects they are identical even to the minutest details." He would add, that as large a group of wild species of flies would show on the whole the reverse relations, viz., they would differ in nearly every detail and be identical in only a few points. In all this I entirely agree with the systematist, for I do not think such a group of types differing by one character each, is comparable to most wild groups of species because the difference between wild species is due to a large number of such single differences. The charactersthat have been accumulated in wild species are of significance in the maintenance of the species, or at least we are led to infer that even though the visible character that we attend to may not itself be important, one at least of the other effects of the factors that represent these characters is significant. It is, of course, hardly to be expected that any random change in as complex a mechanism as an insect would improve the mechanism, and as a matter of fact it is doubtful whether any of the mutant types so far discovered are better adapted to those conditions to which a fly of this structure and habits is already adjusted. But this is beside the mark, for modern genetics shows very positively that adaptive characters are inherited in exactly the same way as are those that are not adaptive; and I have already pointed out that we cannot study a single mutant factor without at the same time studying one of the factors responsible for normal characters, for the two together constitute the Mendelian pair.
And, finally, I want to urge on your attention a question that we are to consider in more detail in the last lecture. Evolution of wildspecies appears to have taken place by modifying and improving bit by bit the structures and habits that the animal or plant already possessed. We have seen that there are thirty mutant factors at least that have an influence on eye color, and it is probable that there are at least as many normal factors that are involved in the production of the red eye of the wild fly.
Evolution from this point of view has consisted largely in introducing new factors that influence characters already present in the animal or plant.
Such a view gives us a somewhat different picture of the process of evolution from the old idea of a ferocious struggle between the individuals of a species with the survival of the fittest and the annihilation of the less fit. Evolution assumes a more peaceful aspect. New and advantageous characters survive by incorporating themselves into the race, improving it and opening to it new opportunities. In other words, the emphasis may be placed less on the competition between the individuals of a species (because the destruction of the less fit doesnot in itself lead to anything that is new) than on the appearance of new characters and modifications of old characters that become incorporated in the species, for on these depends the evolution of the race.