Darwinism (Wallace)/Chapter VII

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Darwinism (Wallace) by Alfred Russel Wallace
Chapter VII - ON THE INFERTILITY OF CROSSES BETWEEN DISTINCT SPECIES AND THE USUAL STERILITY OF THEIR HYBRID OFFSPRING

CHAPTER VII

ON THE INFERTILITY OF CROSSES BETWEEN DISTINCT SPECIES AND THE USUAL STERILITY OF THEIR HYBRID OFFSPRING

Statement of the problem—Extreme susceptibility of the reproductive functions—Reciprocal crosses—Individual differences in respect to cross-fertilisation—Dimorphism and trimorphism among plants—Cases of the fertility of hybrids and of the infertility of mongrels—The effects of close interbreeding—Mr. Huth's objections—Fertile hybrids among animals—Fertility of hybrids among plants—Cases of sterility of mongrels—Parallelism between crossing and change of conditions—Remarks on the facts of hybridity—Sterility due to changed conditions and usually correlated with other characters—Correlation of colour with constitutional peculiarities—The isolation of varieties by selective association—The influence of natural selection upon sterility and fertility—Physiological selection—Summary and concluding remarks.

One of the greatest, or perhaps we may say the greatest, of all the difficulties in the way of accepting the theory of natural selection as a complete explanation of the origin of species, has been the remarkable difference between varieties and species in respect of fertility when crossed. Generally speaking, it may be said that the varieties of any one species, however different they may be in external appearance, are perfectly fertile when crossed, and their mongrel offspring are equally fertile when bred among themselves; while distinct species, on the other hand, however closely they may resemble each other externally, are usually infertile when crossed, and their hybrid offspring absolutely sterile. This used to be considered a fixed law of nature, constituting the absolute test and criterion of a species as distinct from a variety; and so long as it was believed that species were separate creations, or at all events had an origin quite distinct from that of varieties, this law could have no exceptions, because, if any two species had been found to be fertile when crossed and their hybrid offspring to be also fertile, this fact would have been held to prove them to be not species but varieties. On the other hand, if two varieties had been found to be infertile, or their mongrel offspring to be sterile, then it would have been said: These are not varieties but true species. Thus the old theory led to inevitable reasoning in a circle; and what might be only a rather common fact was elevated into a law which had no exceptions.

The elaborate and careful examination of the whole subject by Mr. Darwin, who has brought together a vast mass of evidence from the experience of agriculturists and horticulturists, as well as from scientific experimenters, has demonstrated that there is no such fixed law in nature as was formerly supposed. He shows us that crosses between some varieties are infertile or even sterile, while crosses between some species are quite fertile; and that there are besides a number of curious phenomena connected with the subject which render it impossible to believe that sterility is anything more than an incidental property of species, due to the extreme delicacy and susceptibility of the reproductive powers, and dependent on physiological causes we have not yet been able to trace. Nevertheless, the fact remains that most species which have hitherto been crossed produce sterile hybrids, as in the well-known case of the mule; while almost all domestic varieties, when crossed, produce offspring which are perfectly fertile among themselves. I will now endeavour to give such a sketch of the subject as may enable the reader to see something of the complexity of the problem, referring him to Mr. Darwin's works for fuller details.

Extreme Susceptibility of the Reproductive Functions.

One of the most interesting facts, as showing how susceptible to changed conditions or to slight constitutional changes are the reproductive powers of animals, is the very general difficulty of getting those which are kept in confinement to breed; and this is frequently the only bar to domesticating wild species. Thus, elephants, bears, foxes, and numbers of species of rodents, very rarely breed in confinement; while other species do so more or less freely. Hawks, vultures, and owls hardly ever breed in confinement; neither did the falcons kept for hawking ever breed. Of the numerous small seed-eating birds kept in aviaries, hardly any breed, neither do parrots. Gallinaceous birds usually breed freely in confinement, but some do not; and even the guans and curassows, kept tame by the South American Indians, never breed. This shows that change of climate has nothing to do with the phenomenon; and, in fact, the same species that refuse to breed in Europe do so, in almost every case, when tamed or confined in their native countries. This inability to reproduce is not due to ill-health, since many of these creatures are perfectly vigorous and live very long.

With our true domestic animals, on the other hand, fertility is perfect, and is very little affected by changed conditions. Thus, we see the common fowl, a native of tropical India, living and multiplying in almost every part of the world; and the same is the case with our cattle, sheep, and goats, our dogs and horses, and especially with domestic pigeons. It therefore seems probable, that this facility for breeding under changed conditions was an original property of the species which man has domesticated—a property which, more than any other, enabled him to domesticate them. Yet, even with these, there is evidence that great changes of conditions affect the fertility. In the hot valleys of the Andes sheep are less fertile; while geese taken to the high plateau of Bogota were at first almost sterile, but after some generations recovered their fertility. These and many other facts seem to show that, with the majority of animals, even a slight change of conditions may produce infertility or sterility; and also that after a time, when the animal has become thoroughly acclimatised, as it were, to the new conditions, the infertility is in some cases diminished or altogether ceases. It is stated by Bechstein that the canary was long infertile, and it is only of late years that good breeding birds have become common; but in this case no doubt selection has aided the change.

As showing that these phenomena depend on deep-seated causes and are of a very general nature, it is interesting to note that they occur also in the vegetable kingdom. Allowing for all the circumstances which are known to prevent the production of seed, such as too great luxuriance of foliage, too little or too much heat, or the absence of insects to cross-fertilise the flowers, Mr. Darwin shows that many species which grow and flower with us, apparently in perfect health, yet never produce seed. Other plants are affected by very slight changes of conditions, producing seed freely in one soil and not in another, though apparently growing equally well in both; while, in some cases, a difference of position even in the same garden produces a similar result.[1]

Reciprocal Crosses.

Another indication of the extreme delicacy of the adjustment between the sexes, which is necessary to produce fertility, is afforded by the behaviour of many species and varieties when reciprocally crossed. This will be best illustrated by a few of the examples furnished us by Mr. Darwin. The two distinct species of plants, Mirabilis jalapa and M. longiflora, can be easily crossed, and will produce healthy and fertile hybrids when the pollen of the latter is applied to the stigma of the former plant. But the same experimenter, Kölreuter, tried in vain, more than two hundred times during eight years, to cross them by applying the pollen of M. jalapa to the stigma of M. longiflora. In other cases two plants are so closely allied that some botanists class them as varieties (as with Matthiola annua and M. glabra), and yet there is the same great difference in the result when they are reciprocally crossed.

Individual Differences in respect to Cross-Fertilisation.

A still more remarkable illustration of the delicate balance of organisation needful for reproduction, is afforded by the individual differences of animals and plants, as regards both their power of intercrossing with other individuals or other species, and the fertility of the offspring thus produced. Among domestic animals, Darwin states that it is by no means rare to find certain males and females which will not breed together, though both are known to be perfectly fertile with other males and females. Cases of this kind have occurred among horses, cattle, pigs, dogs, and pigeons; and the experiment has been tried so frequently that there can be no doubt of the fact. Professor G. J. Romanes states that he has a number of additional cases of this individual incompatibility, or of absolute sterility, between two individuals, each of which is perfectly fertile with other individuals.

During the numerous experiments that have been made on the hybridisation of plants similar peculiarities have been noticed, some individuals being capable, others incapable, of being crossed with a distinct species. The same individual peculiarities are found in varieties, species, and genera. Kölreuter crossed five varieties of the common tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) with a distinct species, Nicotiana glutinosa, and they all yielded very sterile hybrids; but those raised from one variety were less sterile, in all the experiments, than the hybrids from the four other varieties. Again, most of the species of the genus Nicotiana have been crossed, and freely produce hybrids; but one species, N. acuminata, not particularly distinct from the others, could neither fertilise, nor be fertilised by, any of the eight other species experimented on. Among genera we find some—such as Hippeastrum, Crinum, Calceolaria, Dianthus—almost all the species of which will fertilise other species and produce hybrid offspring; while other allied genera, as Zephyranthes and Silene, notwithstanding the most persevering efforts, have not produced a single hybrid even between the most closely allied species.

Dimorphism and Trimorphism.

Peculiarities in the reproductive system affecting individuals of the same species reach their maximum in what are called heterostyled, or dimorphic and trimorphic flowers, the phenomena presented by which form one of the most remarkable of Mr. Darwin's many discoveries. Our common cowslip and primrose, as well as many other species of the genus Primula, have two kinds of flowers in about equal proportions. In one kind the stamens are short, being situated about the middle of the tube of the corolla, while the style is long, the globular stigma appearing just in the centre of the open flower. In the other kind the stamens are long, appearing in the centre or throat of the flower, while the style is short, the stigma being situated halfway down the tube at the same level as the stamens in the other form. These two forms have long been known to florists as the "pin-eyed" and the "thrum-eyed," but they are called by Darwin the long-styled and short-styled forms (see woodcut).

FIG. 17.—Primula veris (Cowslip).

The meaning and use of these different forms was quite unknown till Darwin discovered, first, that cowslips and primroses are absolutely barren if insects are prevented from visiting them, and then, what is still more extraordinary, that each form is almost sterile when fertilised by its own pollen, and comparatively infertile when crossed with any other plant of its own form, but is perfectly fertile when the pollen of a long-styled is carried to the stigma of a short-styled plant, or vice versâ. It will be seen, by the figures, that the arrangement is such that a bee visiting the flowers will carry the pollen from the long anthers of the short-styled form to the stigma of the long-styled form, while it would never reach the stigma of another plant of the short-styled form. But an insect visiting, first, a long-styled plant, would deposit the pollen on the stigma of another plant of the same kind if it were next visited; and this is probably the reason why the wild short-styled plants were found to be almost always most productive of seed, since they must be all fertilised by the other form, whereas the long-styled plants might often be fertilised by their own form. The whole arrangement, however, ensures cross-fertilisation; and this, as Mr. Darwin has shown by copious experiments, adds both to the vigour and fertility of almost all plants as well as animals.

Besides the primrose family, many other plants of several distinct natural orders present similar phenomena, one or two of the most curious of which must be referred to. The beautiful crimson flax (Linum grandiflorum) has also two forms, the styles only differing in length; and in this case Mr. Darwin found by numerous experiments, which have since been repeated and confirmed by other observers, that each form is absolutely sterile with pollen from another plant of its own form, but abundantly fertile when crossed with any plant of the other form. In this case the pollen of the two forms cannot be distinguished under the microscope (whereas that of the two forms of Primula differs in size and shape), yet it has the remarkable property of being absolutely powerless on the stigmas of half the plants of its own species. The crosses between the opposite forms, which are fertile, are termed by Mr. Darwin "legitimate," and those between similar forms, which are sterile, "illegitimate"; and he remarks that we have here, within the limits of the same species, a degree of sterility which rarely occurs except between plants or animals not only of different species but of different genera.

But there is another set of plants, the trimorphic, in which the styles and stamens have each three forms—long, medium, and short, and in these it is possible to have eighteen different crosses. By an elaborate series of experiments it was shown that the six legitimate unions—that is, when a plant was fertilised by pollen from stamens of length corresponding to that of its style in the two other forms—were all abundantly fertile; while the twelve illegitimate unions, when a plant was fertilised by pollen from stamens of a different length from its own style, in any of the three forms, were either comparatively or wholly sterile.[2]

We have here a wonderful amount of constitutional difference of the reproductive organs within a single species, greater than usually occurs within the numerous distinct species of a genus or group of genera; and all this diversity appears to have arisen for a purpose which has been obtained by many other, and apparently simpler, changes of structure or of function, in other plants. This seems to show us, in the first place, that variations in the mutual relations of the reproductive organs of different individuals must be as frequent as structural variations have been shown to be; and, also, that sterility in itself can be no test of specific distinctness. But this point will be better considered when we have further illustrated and discussed the complex phenomena of hybridity.

Cases of the Fertility of Hybrids, and of the Infertility of Mongrels.

I now propose to adduce a few cases in which it has been proved, by experiment, that hybrids between two distinct species are fertile inter se; and then to consider why it is that such cases are so few in number.

The common domestic goose (Anser ferns) and the Chinese goose (A. cygnoides) are very distinct species, so distinct that some naturalists have placed them in different genera; yet they have bred together, and Mr. Eyton raised from a pair of these hybrids a brood of eight. This fact was confirmed by Mr. Darwin himself, who raised several fine birds from a pair of hybrids which were sent him.[3] In India, according to Mr. Blyth and Captain Hutton, whole flocks of these hybrid geese are kept in various parts of the country where neither of the pure parent species exists, and as they are kept for profit they must certainly be fully fertile.

Another equally striking case is that of the Indian humped and the common cattle, species which differ osteologically, and also in habits, form, voice, and constitution, so that they are by no means closely allied; yet Mr. Darwin assures us that he has received decisive evidence that the hybrids between these are perfectly fertile inter se.

Dogs have been frequently crossed with wolves and with jackals, and their hybrid offspring have been found to be fertile inter se to the third or fourth generation, and then usually to show some signs of sterility or of deterioration. The wolf and dog may be originally the same species, but the jackal is certainly distinct; and the appearance of infertility or of weakness is probably due to the fact that, in almost all these experiments, the offspring of a single pair—themselves usually from the same litter—- were bred in-and-in, and this alone sometimes produces the most deleterious effects. Thus, Mr. Low in his great work on the Domesticated Animals of Great Britain, says: "If we shall breed a pair of dogs from the same litter, and unite again the offspring of this pair, we shall produce at once a feeble race of creatures; and the process being repeated for one or two generations more, the family will die out, or be incapable of propagating their race. A gentleman of Scotland made the experiment on a large scale with certain foxhounds, and he found that the race actually became monstrous and perished utterly." The same writer tells us that hogs have been made the subject of similar experiments: "After a few generations the victims manifest the change induced in the system. They become of diminished size; the bristles are changed into hairs; the limbs become feeble and short; the litters diminish in frequency, and in the number of the young produced; the mother becomes unable to nourish them, and, if the experiment be carried as far as the case will allow, the feeble, and frequently monstrous offspring, will be incapable of being reared up, and the miserable race will utterly perish."[4]

These precise statements, by one of the greatest authorities on our domesticated animals, are sufficient to show that the fact of infertility or degeneracy appearing in the offspring of hybrids after a few generations need not be imputed to the fact of the first parents being distinct species, since exactly the same phenomena appear when individuals of the same species are bred under similar adverse conditions. But in almost all the experiments that have hitherto been made in crossing distinct species, no care has been taken to avoid close interbreeding by securing several hybrids from quite distinct stocks to start with, and by having two or more sets of experiments carried on at once, so that crosses between the hybrids produced may be occasionally made. Till this is done no experiments, such as those hitherto tried, can be held to prove that hybrids are in all cases infertile inter se.

It has, however, been denied by Mr. A.H. Huth, in his interesting work on The Marriage of Near Kin, that any amount of breeding in-and-in is in itself hurtful; and he quotes the evidence of numerous breeders whose choicest stocks have always been so bred, as well as cases like the Porto Santo rabbits, the goats of Juan Fernandez, and other cases in which animals allowed to run wild have increased prodigiously and continued in perfect health and vigour, although all derived from a single pair. But in all these cases there has been rigid selection by which the weak or the infertile have been eliminated, and with such selection there is no doubt that the ill effects of close interbreeding can be prevented for a long time; but this by no means proves that no ill effects are produced. Mr. Huth himself quotes M. Allié, M. Aubé, Stephens, Giblett, Sir John Sebright, Youatt, Druce, Lord Weston, and other eminent breeders, as finding from experience that close interbreeding does produce bad effects; and it cannot be supposed that there would be such a consensus of opinion on this point if the evil were altogether imaginary. Mr. Huth argues, that the evil results which do occur do not depend on the close interbreeding itself, but on the tendency it has to perpetuate any constitutional weakness or other hereditary taints; and he attempts to prove this by the argument that "if crosses act by virtue of being a cross, and not by virtue of removing an hereditary taint, then the greater the difference between the two animals crossed the more beneficial will that act be." He then shows that, the wider the difference the less is the benefit, and concludes that a cross, as such, has no beneficial effect. A parallel argument would be, that change of air, as from inland to the sea-coast, or from a low to an elevated site, is not beneficial in itself, because, if so, a change to the tropics or to the polar regions should be more beneficial. In both these cases it may well be that no benefit would accrue to a person in perfect health; but then there is no such thing as "perfect health" in man, and probably no such thing as absolute freedom from constitutional taint in animals. The experiments of Mr. Darwin, showing the great and immediate good effects of a cross between distinct strains in plants, cannot be explained away; neither can the innumerable arrangements to secure cross-fertilisation by insects, the real use and purport of which will be discussed in our eleventh chapter. On the whole, then, the evidence at our command proves that, whatever may be its ultimate cause, close interbreeding does usually produce bad results; and it is only by the most rigid selection, whether natural or artificial, that the danger can be altogether obviated.

Fertile Hybrids among Animals.

One or two more cases of fertile hybrids may be given before we pass on to the corresponding experiments in plants. Professor Alfred Newton received from a friend a pair of hybrid ducks, bred from a common duck (Anas boschas), and a pintail (Dafila acuta). From these he obtained four ducklings, but these latter, when grown up, proved infertile, and did not breed again. In this case we have the results of close interbreeding, with too great a difference between the original species, combining to produce infertility, yet the fact of a hybrid from such a pair producing healthy offspring is itself noteworthy.

Still more extraordinary is the following statement of Mr. Low: "It has been long known to shepherds, though questioned by naturalists, that the progeny of the cross between the sheep and goat is fertile. Breeds of this mixed race are numerous in the north of Europe."[5] Nothing appears to be known of such hybrids either in Scandinavia or in Italy; but Professor Giglioli of Florence has kindly given me some useful references to works in which they are described. The following extract from his letter is very interesting: "I need not tell you that there being such hybrids is now generally accepted as a fact. Buffon (Supplements, tom. iii. p. 7, 1756) obtained one such hybrid in 1751 and eight in 1752. Sanson (La Culture, vol. vi. p. 372, 1865) mentions a case observed in the Vosges, France. Geoff. St. Hilaire (Hist. Nat. Gén. des reg. org., vol. iii. p. 163) was the first to mention, I believe, that in different parts of South America the ram is more usually crossed with the she-goat than the sheep with the he-goat. The well-known 'pellones' of Chile are produced by the second and third generation of such hybrids (Gay, 'Hist, de Chile,' vol. i. p. 466, Agriculture, 1862). Hybrids bred from goat and sheep are called 'chabin' in French, and 'cabruno' in Spanish. In Chile such hybrids are called 'carneros lanudos'; their breeding inter se appears to be not always successful, and often the original cross has to be recommenced to obtain the proportion of three-eighths of he-goat and five-eighths of sheep, or of three-eighths of ram and five-eighths of she-goat; such being the reputed best hybrids."

With these numerous facts recorded by competent observers we can hardly doubt that races of hybrids between these very distinct species have been produced, and that such hybrids are fairly fertile inter se; and the analogous facts already given lead us to believe that whatever amount of infertility may at first exist could be eliminated by careful selection, if the crossed races were bred in large numbers and over a considerable area of country. This case is especially valuable, as showing how careful we should be in assuming the infertility of hybrids when experiments have been made with the progeny of a single pair, and have been continued only for one or two generations.

Among insects one case only appears to have been recorded. The hybrids of two moths (Bombyx cynthia and B. arrindia) were proved in Paris, according to M. Quatrefages, to be fertile inter se for eight generations.

Fertility of Hybrids among Plants.

Among plants the cases of fertile hybrids are more numerous, owing, in part, to the large scale on which they are grown by gardeners and nurserymen, and to the greater facility with which experiments can be made. Darwin tells us that Kölreuter found ten cases in which two plants considered by botanists to be distinct species were quite fertile together, and he therefore ranked them all as varieties of each other. In some cases these were grown for six to ten successive generations, but after a time the fertility decreased, as we saw to be the case in animals, and presumably from the same cause, too close interbreeding.

Dean Herbert, who carried on experiments with great care and skill for many years, found numerous cases of hybrids which were perfectly fertile inter se. Crinum capense, fertilised by three other species—C. pedunculatum, C. canaliculatum, or C. defixum—all very distinct from it, produced perfectly fertile hybrids; while other species less different in appearance were quite sterile with the same C. capense.

All the species of the genus Hippeastrum produce hybrid offspring which are invariably fertile. Lobelia syphylitica and L. fulgens, two very distinct species, have produced a hybrid which has been named Lobelia speciosa, and which reproduces itself abundantly. Many of the beautiful pelargoniums of our greenhouses are hybrids, such as P. ignescens from a cross between P. citrinodorum and P. fulgidum, which is quite fertile, and has become the parent of innumerable varieties of beautiful plants. All the varied species of Calceolaria, however different in appearance, intermix with the greatest readiness, and the hybrids are all more or less fertile. But the most remarkable case is that of two species of Petunia, of which Dean Herbert says: "It is very remarkable that, although there is a great difference in the form of the flower, especially of the tube, of P. nyctanigenaeflora and P. phoenicea the mules between them are not only fertile, but I have found them seed much more freely with me than either parent.... From a pod of the above-mentioned mule, to which no pollen but its own had access, I had a large batch of seedlings in which there was no variability or difference from itself; and it is evident that the mule planted by itself, in a congenial climate, would reproduce itself as a species; at least as much deserving to be so considered as the various Calceolarias of different districts of South America."[6]

Darwin was informed by Mr. C. Noble that he raises stocks for grafting from a hybrid between Rhododendron ponticum and R. catawbiense, and that this hybrid seeds as freely as it is possible to imagine. He adds that horticulturists raise large beds of the same hybrid, and such alone are fairly treated; for, by insect agency, the several individuals are freely crossed with each other, and the injurious influence of close interbreeding is thus prevented. Had hybrids, when fairly treated, always gone on decreasing in fertility in each successive generation, as Gärtner believed to be the case, the fact would have been notorious to nurserymen.[7]

Cases of Sterility of Mongrels.

The reverse phenomenon to the fertility of hybrids, the sterility of mongrels or of the crosses between varieties of the same species, is a comparatively rare one, yet some undoubted cases have occurred. Gartner, who believed in the absolute distinctness of species and varieties, had two varieties of maize—one dwarf with yellow seeds, the other taller with red seeds; yet they never naturally crossed, and, when fertilised artificially, only a single head produced any seeds, and this one only five grains. Yet these few seeds were fertile; so that in this case the first cross was almost sterile, though the hybrid when at length produced was fertile. In like manner, dissimilarly coloured varieties of Verbascum or mullein have been found by two distinct observers to be comparatively infertile. The two pimpernels (Anagallis arvensis and A. coerulea), classed by most botanists as varieties of one species, have been found, after repeated trials, to be perfectly sterile when crossed.

No cases of this kind are recorded among animals; but this is not to be wondered at, when we consider how very few experiments have been made with natural varieties; while there is good reason for believing that domestic varieties are exceptionally fertile, partly because one of the conditions of domestication was fertility under changed conditions, and also because long continued domestication is believed to have the effect of increasing fertility and eliminating whatever sterility may exist. This is shown by the fact that, in many cases, domestic animals are descended from two or more distinct species. This is almost certainly the case with the dog, and probably with the hog, the ox, and the sheep; yet the various breeds are now all perfectly fertile, although we have every reason to suppose that there would be some degree of infertility if the several aboriginal species were crossed together for the first time.

Parallelism between Crossing and Change of Conditions.

In the whole series of these phenomena, from the beneficial effects of the crossing of different stocks and the evil effects of close interbreeding, up to the partial or complete sterility induced by crosses between species belonging to different genera, we have, as Mr. Darwin points out, a curious parallelism with the effects produced by change of physical conditions. It is well known that slight changes in the conditions of life are beneficial to all living things. Plants, if constantly grown in one soil and locality from their own seeds, are greatly benefited by the importation of seed from some other locality. The same thing happens with animals; and the benefit we ourselves experience from "change of air" is an illustration of the same phenomenon. But the amount of the change which is beneficial has its limits, and then a greater amount is injurious. A change to a climate a few degrees warmer or colder may be good, while a change to the tropics or to the arctic regions might be injurious.

Thus we see that, both slight changes of conditions and a slight amount of crossing, are beneficial; while extreme changes, and crosses between individuals too far removed in structure or constitution, are injurious. And there is not only a parallelism but an actual connection between the two classes of facts, for, as we have already shown, many species of animals and plants are rendered infertile, or altogether sterile, by the change from their natural conditions which occurs in confinement or in cultivation; while, on the other hand, the increased vigour or fertility which is invariably produced by a judicious cross may be also effected by a judicious change of climate and surroundings. We shall see in a subsequent chapter, that this interchangeability of the beneficial effects of crossing and of new conditions, serves to explain some very puzzling phenomena in the forms and economy of flowers.

Remarks on the Facts of Hybridity.

The facts that have now been adduced, though not very numerous, are sufficiently conclusive to prove that the old belief, of the universal sterility of hybrids and fertility of mongrels, is incorrect. The doctrine that such a universal law existed was never more than a plausible generalisation, founded on a few inconclusive facts derived from domesticated animals and cultivated plants. The facts were, and still are, inconclusive for several reasons. They are founded, primarily, on what occurs among animals in domestication; and it has been shown that domestication both tends to increase fertility, and was itself rendered possible by the fertility of those particular species being little affected by changed conditions. The exceptional fertility of all the varieties of domesticated animals does not prove that a similar fertility exists among natural varieties. In the next place, the generalisation is founded on too remote crosses, as in the case of the horse and the ass, the two most distinct and widely separated species of the genus Equus, so distinct indeed that they have been held by some naturalists to form distinct genera. Crosses between the two species of zebra, or even between the zebra and the quagga, or the quagga and the ass, might have led to a very different result. Again, in pre-Darwinian times it was so universally the practice to argue in a circle, and declare that the fertility of the offspring of a cross proved the identity of species of the parents, that experiments in hybridity were usually made between very remote species and even between species of different genera, to avoid the possibility of the reply: "They are both really the same species;" and the sterility of the hybrid offspring of such remote crosses of course served to strengthen the popular belief.

Now that we have arrived at a different standpoint, and look upon a species, not as a distinct entity due to special creation, but as an assemblage of individuals which have become somewhat modified in structure, form, and constitution so as to adapt them to slightly different conditions of life; which can be differentiated from other allied assemblages; which reproduce their like, and which usually breed together—we require a fresh set of experiments calculated to determine the matter of fact,—whether such species crossed with their near allies do always produce offspring which are more or less sterile inter se. Ample materials for such experiments exist, in the numerous "representative species" inhabiting distinct areas on a continent or different islands of a group; or even in those found in the same area but frequenting somewhat different stations.

To carry out these experiments with any satisfactory result, it will be necessary to avoid the evil effects of confinement and of too close interbreeding. If birds are experimented with, they should be allowed as much liberty as possible, a plot of ground with trees and bushes being enclosed with wire netting overhead so as to form a large open aviary. The species experimented with should be obtained in considerable numbers, and by two separate persons, each making the opposite reciprocal cross, as explained at p. 155. In the second generation these two stocks might be themselves crossed to prevent the evil effects of too close interbreeding. By such experiments, carefully carried out with different groups of animals and plants, we should obtain a body of facts of a character now sadly wanting, and without which it is hopeless to expect to arrive at a complete solution of this difficult problem. There are, however, some other aspects of the question that need to be considered, and some theoretical views which require to be carefully examined, having done which we shall be in a condition to state the general conclusions to which the facts and reasonings at our command seem to point.

Sterility due to changed Conditions and usually correlated with other Characters, especially with Colour.

The evidence already adduced as to the extreme susceptibility of the reproductive system, and the curious irregularity with which infertility or sterility appears in the crosses between some varieties or species while quite absent in those between others, seem to indicate that sterility is a characteristic which has a constant tendency to appear, either by itself or in correlation with other characters. It is known to be especially liable to occur under changed conditions of life; and, as such change is usually the starting-point and cause of the development of new species, we have already found a reason why it should so often appear when species become fully differentiated.

In almost all the cases of infertility or sterility between varieties or species, we have some external differences with which it is correlated; and though these differences are sometimes slight, and the amount of the infertility is not always, or even usually, proportionate to the external difference between the two forms crossed, we must believe that there is some connection between the two classes of facts. This is especially the case as regards colour; and Mr. Darwin has collected a body of facts which go far to prove that colour, instead of being an altogether trifling and unimportant character, as was supposed by the older naturalists, is really one of great significance, since it is undoubtedly often correlated with important constitutional differences. Now colour is one of the characters that most usually distinguishes closely allied species; and when we hear that the most closely allied species of plants are infertile together, while those more remote are fertile, the meaning usually is that the former differ chiefly in the colour of their flowers, while the latter differ in the form of the flowers or foliage, in habit, or in other structural characters.

It is therefore a most curious and suggestive fact, that in all the recorded cases, in which a decided infertility occurs between varieties of the same species, those varieties are distinguished by a difference of colour. The infertile varieties of Verbascum were white and yellow flowered respectively; the infertile varieties of maize were red and yellow seeded; while the infertile pimpernels were the red and the blue flowered varieties. So, the differently coloured varieties of hollyhocks, though grown close together, each reproduce their own colour from seed, showing that they are not capable of freely intercrossing. Yet Mr. Darwin assures us that the agency of bees is necessary to carry the pollen from one plant to another, because in each flower the pollen is shed before the stigma is ready to receive it. We have here, therefore, either almost complete sterility between varieties of different colours, or a prepotent effect of pollen from a flower of the same colour, bringing about the same result.

Similar phenomena have not been recorded among animals; but this is not to be wondered at when we consider that most of our pure and valued domestic breeds are characterised by definite colours which constitute one of their distinctive marks, and they are, therefore, seldom crossed with these of another colour; and even when they are so crossed, no notice would be taken of any slight diminution of fertility, since this is liable to occur from many causes. We have also reason to believe that fertility has been increased by long domestication, in addition to the fact of the original stocks being exceptionally fertile; and no experiments have been made on the differently coloured varieties of wild animals. There are, however, a number of very curious facts showing that colour in animals, as in plants, is often correlated with constitutional differences of a remarkable kind, and as these have a close relation to the subject we are discussing, a brief summary of them will be here given.

Correlation of Colour with Constitutional Peculiarities.

The correlation of a white colour and blue eyes in male cats with deafness, and of the tortoise-shell marking with the female sex of the same animal, are two well-known but most extraordinary cases. Equally remarkable is the fact, communicated to Darwin by Mr. Tegetmeier, that white, yellow, pale blue, or dun pigeons, of all breeds, have the young birds born naked, while in all other colours they are well covered with down. Here we have a case in which colour seems of more physiological importance than all the varied structural differences between the varieties and breeds of pigeons. In Virginia there is a plant called the paint-root (Lachnanthes tinctoria), which, when eaten by pigs, colours their bones pink, and causes the hoofs of all but the black varieties to drop off; so that black pigs only can be kept in the district.[8] Buckwheat in flower is also said to be injurious to white pigs but not to black. In the Tarentino, black sheep are not injured by eating the Hypericum crispum—a species of St. John's-wort—which kills white sheep. White terriers suffer most from distemper; white chickens from the gapes. White-haired horses or cattle are subject to cutaneous diseases from which the dark coloured are free; while, both in Thuringia and the West Indies, it has been noticed that white or pale coloured cattle are much more troubled by flies than are those which are brown or black. The same law even extends to insects, for it is found that silkworms which produce white cocoons resist the fungus disease much better than do those which produce yellow cocoons.[9] Among plants, we have in North America green and yellow-fruited plums not affected by a disease that attacked the purple-fruited varieties. Yellow-fleshed peaches suffer more from disease than white-fleshed kinds. In Mauritius, white sugar-canes were attacked by a disease from which the red canes were free. White onions and verbenas are most liable to mildew; and red-flowered hyacinths were more injured by the cold during a severe winter in Holland than any other kinds.[10]

These curious and inexplicable correlations of colour with constitutional peculiarities, both in animals and plants, render it probable that the correlation of colour with infertility, which has been detected in several cases in plants, may also extend to animals in a state of nature; and if so, the fact is of the highest importance as throwing light on the origin of the infertility of many allied species. This will be better understood after considering the facts which will be now described.

The Isolation of Varieties by Selective Association.

In the last chapter I have shown that the importance of geographical isolation for the formation of new species by natural selection has been greatly exaggerated, because the very change of conditions, which is the initial power in starting such new forms, leads also to a local or stational segregation of the forms acted upon. But there is also a very powerful cause of isolation in the mental nature—the likes and dislikes—of animals; and to this is probably due the fact of the comparative rarity of hybrids in a state of nature. The differently coloured herds of cattle in the Falkland Islands, each of which keeps separate, have been already mentioned; and it may be added, that the white variety seem to have already developed a physiological peculiarity in breeding a month earlier than the others. Similar facts occur, however, among our domestic animals and are well known to breeders. Professor Low, one of the greatest authorities on our domesticated animals, says: "The female of the dog, when not under restraint, makes selection of her mate, the mastiff selecting the mastiff, the terrier the terrier, and so on." And again: "The Merino sheep and Heath sheep of Scotland, if two flocks are mixed together, each will breed with its own variety." Mr. Darwin has collected many facts illustrating this point. One of the chief pigeon-fanciers in England informed him that, if free to choose, each breed would prefer pairing with its own kind. Among the wild horses in Paraguay those of the same colour and size associate together; while in Circassia there are three races of horses which have received special names, and which, when living a free life, almost always refuse to mingle and cross, and will even attack one another. On one of the Faroe Islands, not more than half a mile in diameter, the half-wild native black sheep do not readily mix with imported white sheep. In the Forest of Dean, and in the New Forest, the dark and pale coloured herds of fallow deer have never been known to mingle; and even the curious Ancon sheep of quite modern origin have been observed to keep together, separating themselves from the rest of the flock when put into enclosures with other sheep. The same rule applies to birds, for Darwin was informed by the Rev. W.D. Fox that his flocks of white and Chinese geese kept distinct.[11]

This constant preference of animals for their like, even in the case of slightly different varieties of the same species, is evidently a fact of great importance in considering the origin of species by natural selection, since it shows us that, so soon as a slight differentiation of form or colour has been effected, isolation will at once arise by the selective association of the animals themselves; and thus the great stumbling-block of "the swamping effects of intercrossing," which has been so prominently brought forward by many naturalists, will be completely obviated.

If now we combine with this fact the correlation of colour with important constitutional peculiarities, and, in some cases, with infertility; and consider, further, the curious parallelism that has been shown to exist between the effects of changed conditions and the intercrossing of varieties in producing either an increase or a decrease of fertility, we shall have obtained, at all events, a starting-point for the production of that infertility which is so characteristic a feature of distinct species when intercrossed. All we need, now, is some means of increasing or accumulating this initial tendency; and to a discussion of this problem we will therefore address ourselves.

The Influence of Natural Selection upon Sterility and Fertility.

It will occur to many persons that, as the infertility or sterility of incipient species would be useful to them when occupying the same or adjacent areas, by neutralising the effects of intercrossing, this infertility might have been increased by the action of natural selection; and this will be thought the more probable if we admit, as we have seen reason to do, that variations in fertility occur, perhaps as frequently as other variations. Mr. Darwin tells us that, at one time, this appeared to him probable, but he found the problem to be one of extreme complexity; and he was also influenced against the view by many considerations which seemed to render such an origin of the sterility or infertility of species when intercrossed very improbable. The fact that species which occupy distinct areas, and which nowhere come in contact with each other, are often sterile when crossed, is one of the difficulties; but this may perhaps be overcome by the consideration that, though now isolated, they may, and often must, have been in contact at their origination. More important is the objection that natural selection could not possibly have produced the difference that often occurs between reciprocal crosses, one of these being sometimes fertile, while the other is sterile. The extremely different amounts of infertility or sterility between different species of the same genus, the infertility often bearing no proportion to the difference between the species crossed, is also an important objection. But none of these objections would have much weight if it could be clearly shown that natural selection is able to increase the infertility variations of incipient species, as it is certainly able to increase and develop all useful variations of form, structure, instincts, or habits. Ample causes of infertility have been shown to exist, in the nature of the organism and the laws of correlation; the agency of natural selection is only needed to accumulate the effects produced by these causes, and to render their final results more uniform and more in accordance with the facts that exist.

About twenty years ago I had much correspondence and discussion with Mr. Darwin on this question. I then believed that I was able to demonstrate the action of natural selection in accumulating infertility; but I could not convince him, owing to the extreme complexity of the process under the conditions which he thought most probable. I have recently returned to the question; and, with the fuller knowledge of the facts of variation we now possess, I think it may be shown that natural selection is, in some probable cases at all events, able to accumulate variations in infertility between incipient species.

The simplest case to consider, will be that in which two forms or varieties of a species, occupying an extensive area, are in process of adaptation to somewhat different modes of life within the same area. If these two forms freely intercross with each other, and produce mongrel offspring which are quite fertile inter se, then the further differentiation of the forms into two distinct species will be retarded, or perhaps entirely prevented; for the offspring of the crossed unions will be, perhaps, more vigorous on account of the cross, although less perfectly adapted to the conditions of existence than either of the pure breeds; and this would certainly establish a powerful antagonistic influence to the further differentiation of the two forms. Now, let us suppose that a partial sterility of the hybrids between the two forms arises, in correlation with the different modes of life and the slight external or internal peculiarities that exist between them, both of which we have seen to be real causes of infertility. The result will be that, even if the hybrids between the two forms are still freely produced, these hybrids will not themselves increase so rapidly as the two pure forms; and as these latter are, by the terms of the problem, better suited to their conditions of life than are the hybrids between them, they will not only increase more rapidly, but will also tend to supplant the hybrids altogether whenever the struggle for existence becomes exceptionally severe. Thus, the more complete the sterility of the hybrids the more rapidly will they die out and leave the two parent forms pure. Hence it will follow that, if there is greater infertility between the two forms in one part of the area than the other, these forms will be kept more pure wherever this greater infertility prevails, will therefore have an advantage at each recurring period of severe struggle for existence, and will thus ultimately supplant the less infertile or completely fertile forms that may exist in other portions of the area. It thus appears that, in such a case as here supposed, natural selection would preserve those portions of the two breeds which were most infertile with each other, or whose hybrid offspring were most infertile; and would, therefore, if variations in fertility continued to arise, tend to increase that infertility. It must particularly be noted that this effect would result, not by the preservation of the infertile variations on account of their infertility, but by the inferiority of the hybrid offspring, both as being fewer in numbers, less able to continue their race, and less adapted to the conditions of existence than either of the pure forms. It is this inferiority of the hybrid offspring that is the essential point; and as the number of these hybrids will be permanently less where the infertility is greatest, therefore those portions of the two forms in which infertility is greatest will have the advantage, and will ultimately survive in the struggle for existence.

The differentiation of the two forms into distinct species, with the increase of infertility between them, would be greatly assisted by two other important factors in the problem. It has already been shown that, with each modification of form and habits, and especially with modifications of colour, there arises a disinclination of the two forms to pair together; and this would produce an amount of isolation which would greatly assist the specialisation of the forms in adaptation to their different conditions of life. Again, evidence has been adduced that change of conditions or of mode of life is a potent cause of disturbance of the reproductive system, and, consequently, of infertility. We may therefore assume that, as the two forms adopted more and more different modes of life, and perhaps acquired also decided peculiarities of form and coloration, the infertility between them would increase or become more general; and as we have seen that every such increase of infertility would give that portion of the species in which it arose an advantage over the remaining portions in which the two varieties were more fertile together, all this induced infertility would maintain itself, and still further increase the general infertility between the two forms of the species.

It follows, then, that specialisation to separate conditions of life, differentiation of external characters, disinclination to cross-unions, and the infertility of the hybrid produce of these unions, would all proceed pari passu, and would ultimately lead to the production of two distinct forms having all the characteristics, physiological as well as structural, of true species.

In the case now discussed it has been supposed, that some amount of general infertility might arise in correlation with the different modes of life of two varieties or incipient species. A considerable body of facts already adduced renders it probable that this is the mode in which any widespread infertility would arise; and, if so, it has been shown that, by the influence of natural selection and the known laws which affect varieties, the infertility would be gradually increased. But, if we suppose the infertility to arise sporadically within the two forms, and to affect only a small proportion of the individuals in any area, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to show that such infertility would have any tendency to increase, or would produce any but a prejudicial effect. If, for example, five per cent of each form thus varied so as to be infertile with the other form, the result would be hardly perceptible, because the individuals which formed cross-unions and produced hybrids would constitute a very small portion of the whole species; and the hybrid offspring, being at a disadvantage in the struggle for existence and being themselves infertile, would soon die out, while the much more numerous fertile portion of the two forms would increase rapidly, and furnish a sufficient number of pure-bred offspring of each form to take the place of the somewhat inferior hybrids between them whenever the struggle for existence became severe. We must suppose that the normal fertile forms would transmit their fertility to their progeny, and the few infertile forms their infertility; but the latter would necessarily lose half their proper increase by the sterility of their hybrid offspring whenever they crossed with the other form, and when they bred with their own form the tendency to sterility would die out except in the very minute proportion of the five per cent (one-twentieth) that chance would lead to pair together. Under these circumstances the incipient sterility between the two forms would rapidly be eliminated, and could never rise much above the numbers which were produced by sporadic variation each year.

It was, probably, by a consideration of some such case as this that Mr. Darwin came to the conclusion that infertility arising between incipient species could not be increased by natural selection; and this is the more likely, as he was always disposed to minimise both the frequency and the amount even of structural variations.

We have yet to notice another mode of action of natural selection in favouring and perpetuating any infertility that may arise between two incipient species. If several distinct species are undergoing modification at the same time and in the same area, to adapt them to some new conditions that have arisen there, then any species in which the structural or colour differences that have arisen between it and its varieties or close allies were correlated with infertility of the crosses between them, would have an advantage over the corresponding varieties of other species in which there was no such physiological peculiarity. Thus, incipient species which were infertile together would have an advantage over other incipient species which were fertile, and, whenever the struggle for existence became severe, would prevail over them and take their place. Such infertility, being correlated with constitutional or structural differences, would probably, as already suggested, go on increasing as these differences increased; and thus, by the time the new species became fully differentiated from its parent form (or brother variety) the infertility might have become as well marked as we usually find it to be between distinct species.

This discussion has led us to some conclusions of the greatest importance as bearing on the difficult problem of the cause of the sterility of the hybrids between distinct species. Accepting, as highly probable, the fact of variations in fertility occurring in correlation with variations in habits, colour, or structure, we see, that so long as such variations occurred only sporadically, and affected but a small proportion of the individuals in any area, the infertility could not be increased by natural selection, but would tend to die out almost as fast as it was produced. If, however, it was so closely correlated with physical variations or diverse modes of life as to affect, even in a small degree, a considerable proportion of the individuals of the two forms in definite areas, it would be preserved by natural selection, and the portion of the varying species thus affected would increase at the expense of those portions which were more fertile when crossed. Each further variation towards infertility between the two forms would be again preserved, and thus the incipient infertility of the hybrid offspring might be increased till it became so great as almost to amount to sterility. Yet further, we have seen that if several competing species in the same area were being simultaneously modified, those between whose varieties infertility arose would have an advantage over those whose varieties remained fertile inter se, and would ultimately supplant them.

The preceding argument, it will be seen, depends entirely upon the assumption that some amount of infertility characterises the distinct varieties which are in process of differentiation into species; and it may be objected that of such infertility there is no proof. This is admitted; but it is urged that facts have been adduced which render such infertility probable, at least in some cases, and this is all that is required. It is by no means necessary that all varieties should exhibit incipient infertility, but only, some varieties; for we know that, of the innumerable varieties that occur but few become developed into distinct species, and it may be that the absence of infertility, to obviate the effects of intercrossing, is one of the usual causes of their failure. All I have attempted to show is, that when incipient infertility does occur in correlation with other varietal differences, that infertility can be, and in fact must be, increased by natural selection; and this, it appears to me, is a decided step in advance in the solution of the problem.[12]

Physiological Selection.

Another form of infertility has been suggested by Professor G.J. Romanes as having aided in bringing about the characteristic infertility or sterility of hybrids. It is founded on the fact, already noticed, that certain individuals of some species possess what may be termed selective sterility—that is, while fertile with some individuals of the species they are sterile with others, and this altogether independently of any differences of form, colour, or structure. The phenomenon, in the only form in which it has been observed, is that of "infertility or absolute sterility between two individuals, each of which is perfectly fertile with all other individuals;" but Mr. Romanes thinks that "it would not be nearly so remarkable, or physiologically improbable, that such incompatibility should run through a whole race or strain."[13] Admitting that this may be so, though we have at present no evidence whatever in support of it, it remains to be considered whether such physiological varieties could maintain themselves, or whether, as in the cases of sporadic infertility already discussed, they would necessarily die out unless correlated with useful characters. Mr. Romanes thinks that they would persist, and urges that "whenever this one kind of variation occurs it cannot escape the preserving agency of physiological selection. Hence, even if it be granted that the variation which affects the reproductive system in this particular way is a variation of comparatively rare occurrence, still, as it must always be preserved whenever it does occur, its influence in the manufacture of specific types must be cumulative." The very positive statements which I have italicised would lead most readers to believe that the alleged fact had been demonstrated by a careful working out of the process in some definite supposed cases. This, however, has nowhere been done in Mr. Romanes' paper; and as it is the vital theoretical point on which any possible value of the new theory rests, and as it appears so opposed to the self-destructive effects of simple infertility, which we have already demonstrated when it occurs between the intermingled portion of two varieties, it must be carefully examined. In doing so, I will suppose that the required variation is not of "rare occurrence," but of considerable amount, and that it appears afresh each year to about the same extent, thus giving the theory every possible advantage.

Let us then suppose that a given species consists of 100,000 individuals of each sex, with only the usual amount of fluctuating external variability. Let a physiological variation arise, so that 10 per cent of the whole number—10,000 individuals of each sex—while remaining fertile inter se become quite sterile with the remaining 90,000. This peculiarity is not correlated with any external differences of form or colour, or with inherent peculiarities of likes or dislikes leading to any choice as to the pairing of the two sets of individuals. We have now to inquire, What would be the result?

Taking, first, the 10,000 pairs of the physiological or abnormal variety, we find that each male of these might pair with any one of the whole 100,000 of the opposite sex. If, therefore, there was nothing to limit their choice to particular individuals of either variety, the probabilities are that 9000 of them would pair with the opposite variety, and only 1000 with their own variety—that is, that 9000 would form sterile unions, and only one thousand would form fertile unions.

Taking, next, the 90,000 normal individuals of either sex, we find, that each male of these has also a choice of 100,000 to pair with. The probabilities are, therefore, that nine-tenths of them—that is, 81,000—would pair with their normal fellows, while 9000 would pair with the opposite abnormal variety forming the above-mentioned sterile unions.

Now, as the number of individuals forming a species remains constant, generally speaking, from year to year, we shall have next year also 100,000 pairs, of which the two physiological varieties will be in the proportion of eighty-one to one, or 98,780 pairs of the normal variety to 1220[14] of the abnormal, that being the proportion of the fertile unions of each. In this year we shall find, by the same rule of probabilities, that only 15 males of the abnormal variety will pair with their like and be fertile, the remaining 1205 forming sterile unions with some of the normal variety. The following year the total 100,000 pairs will consist of 99,984 of the normal, and only 16 of the abnormal variety; and the probabilities, of course, are, that the whole of these latter will pair with some of the enormous preponderance of normal individuals, and, their unions being sterile, the physiological variety will become extinct in the third year.

If now in the second and each succeeding year a similar proportion as at first (10 per cent) of the physiological variety is produced afresh from the ranks of the normal variety, the same rate of diminution will go on, and it will be found that, on the most favourable estimate, the physiological variety can never exceed 12,000 to the 88,000 of the normal form of the species, as shown by the following table:—

1st Year. 10,000 of physiological variety to 90,000 of normal variety.
2d " 1,220 + 10,000 again produced.
3d " 16 + 1,220 + 10,000 do. = 11,236
4th " O + 16 + 1,220 + 10,000 do. = 11,236
5th " O + 16 + 1,220 + 10,000 = 11,236
and so on for any number of generations.

In the preceding discussion we have given the theory the advantage of the large proportion of 10 per cent of this very exceptional variety arising in its midst year by year, and we have seen that, even under these favourable conditions, it is unable to increase its numbers much above its starting-point, and that it remains wholly dependent on the continued renewal of the variety for its existence beyond a few years. It appears, then, that this form of inter-specific sterility cannot be increased by natural or any other known form of selection, but that it contains within itself its own principle of destruction. If it is proposed to get over the difficulty by postulating a larger percentage of the variety annually arising within the species, we shall not affect the law of decrease until we approach equality in the numbers of the two varieties. But with any such increase of the physiological variety the species itself would inevitably suffer by the large proportion of sterile unions in its midst, and would thus be at a great disadvantage in competition with other species which were fertile throughout. Thus, natural selection will always tend to weed out any species with too great a tendency to sterility among its own members, and will therefore prevent such sterility from becoming the general characteristic of varying species, which this theory demands should be the case.

On the whole, then, it appears clear that no form of infertility or sterility between the individuals of a species, can be increased by natural selection unless correlated with some useful variation, while all infertility not so correlated has a constant tendency to effect its own elimination. But the opposite property, fertility, is of vital importance to every species, and gives the offspring of the individuals which possess it, in consequence of their superior numbers, a greater chance of survival in the battle of life. It is, therefore, directly under the control of natural selection, which acts both by the self-preservation of fertile and the self-destruction of infertile stocks—except always where correlated as above, when they become useful, and therefore subject to be increased by natural selection.

Summary and Concluding Remarks on Hybridity.

The facts which are of the greatest importance to a comprehension of this very difficult subject are those which show the extreme susceptibility of the reproductive system both in plants and animals. We have seen how both these classes of organisms may be rendered infertile, by a change of conditions which does not affect their general health, by captivity, or by too close interbreeding. We have seen, also, that infertility is frequently correlated with a difference of colour, or with other characters; that it is not proportionate to divergence of structure; that it varies in reciprocal crosses between pairs of the same species; while in the cases of dimorphic and trimorphic plants the different crosses between the same pair of individuals may be fertile or sterile at the same time. It appears as if fertility depended on such a delicate adjustment of the male and female elements to each other, that, unless constantly kept up by the preservation of the most fertile individuals, sterility is always liable to arise. This preservation always occurs within the limits of each species, both because fertility is of the highest importance to the continuance of the race, and also because sterility (and to a less extent infertility) is self-destructive as well as injurious to the species.

So long therefore as a species remains undivided, and in occupation of a continuous area, its fertility is kept up by natural selection; but the moment it becomes separated, either by geographical or selective isolation, or by diversity of station or of habits, then, while each portion must be kept fertile inter se, there is nothing to prevent infertility arising between the two separated portions. As the two portions will necessarily exist under somewhat different conditions of life, and will usually have acquired some diversity of form and colour—both which circumstances we know to be either the cause of infertility or to be correlated with it,—the fact of some degree of infertility usually appearing between closely allied but locally or physiologically segregated species is exactly what we should expect.

The reason why varieties do not usually exhibit a similar amount of infertility is not difficult to explain. The popular conclusions on this matter have been drawn chiefly from what occurs among domestic animals, and we have seen that the very first essential to their becoming domesticated was that they should continue fertile under changed conditions of life. During the slow process of the formation of new varieties by conscious or unconscious selection, fertility has always been an essential character, and has thus been invariably preserved or increased; while there is some evidence to show that domestication itself tends to increase fertility.

Among plants, wild species and varieties have been more frequently experimented on than among animals, and we accordingly find numerous cases in which distinct species of plants are perfectly fertile when crossed, their hybrid offspring being also fertile inter se. We also find some few examples of the converse fact—varieties of the same species which when crossed are infertile or even sterile.

The idea that either infertility or geographical isolation is absolutely essential to the formation of new species, in order to prevent the swamping effects of intercrossing, has been shown to be unsound, because the varieties or incipient species will, in most cases, be sufficiently isolated by having adopted different habits or by frequenting different stations; while selective association, which is known to be general among distinct varieties or breeds of the same species, will produce an effective isolation even when the two forms occupy the same area.

From the various considerations now adverted to, Mr. Darwin arrived at the conclusion that the sterility or infertility of species with each other, whether manifested in the difficulty of obtaining first crosses between them or in the sterility of the hybrids thus obtained, is not a constant or necessary result of specific difference, but is incidental on unknown peculiarities of the reproductive system. These peculiarities constantly tend to arise under changed conditions owing to the extreme susceptibility of that system, and they are usually correlated with variations of form or of colour. Hence, as fixed differences of form and colour, slowly gained by natural selection in adaptation to changed conditions, are what essentially characterise distinct species, some amount of infertility between species is the usual result.

Here the problem was left by Mr. Darwin; but we have shown that its solution may be carried a step further. If we accept the association of some degree of infertility, however slight, as a not unfrequent accompaniment of the external differences which always arise in a state of nature between varieties and incipient species, it has been shown that natural selection has power to increase that infertility just as it has power to increase other favourable variations. Such an increase of infertility will be beneficial, whenever new species arise in the same area with the parent form; and we thus see how, out of the fluctuating and very unequal amounts of infertility correlated with physical variations, there may have arisen that larger and more constant amount which appears usually to characterise well-marked species.

The great body of facts of which a condensed account has been given in the present chapter, although from an experimental point of view very insufficient, all point to the general conclusion we have now reached, and afford us a not unsatisfactory solution of the great problem of hybridism in relation to the origin of species by means of natural selection. Further experimental research is needed in order to complete the elucidation of the subject; but until these additional facts are forthcoming no new theory seems required for the explanation of the phenomena.


  1. Darwin's Animals and Plants under Domestication, vol. ii. pp. 163-170.
  2. For a full account of these interesting facts and of the various problems to which they give rise, the reader must consult Darwin's volume on The Different Forms of Flowers in Plants of the same Species, chaps, i.-iv.
  3. See Nature, vol. xxi. p. 207.
  4. Low's Domesticated Animals of Great Britain, Introduction, p. lxiv.
  5. Low's Domesticated Animals, p. 28.
  6. Amaryllidaceae, by the Hon. and Rev. William Herbert, p. 379.
  7. Origin of Species, p. 239.
  8. Origin of Species, sixth edition, p. 9.
  9. In the Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, vol. liii. (1870), Dr. Ogle has adduced some curious physiological facts bearing on the presence or absence of white colours in the higher animals. He states that a dark pigment in the olfactory region of the nostrils is essential to perfect smell, and that this pigment is rarely deficient except when the whole animal is pure white, and the creature is then almost without smell or taste. He observes that there is no proof that, in any of the cases given above, the black animals actually eat the poisonous root or plant; and that the facts are readily understood if the senses of smell and taste are dependent on a pigment which is absent in the white animals, who therefore eat what those gifted with normal senses avoid. This explanation however hardly seems to cover the facts. We cannot suppose that almost all the sheep in the world (which are mostly white) are without smell or taste. The cutaneous disease on the white patches of hair on horses, the special liability of white terriers to distemper, of white chickens to the gapes, and of silkworms which produce yellow silk to the fungus, are not explained by it. The analogous facts in plants also indicate a real constitutional relation with colour, not an affection of the sense of smell and taste only.
  10. For all these facts, see Animals and Plants under Domestication, vol. ii. pp. 335-338.
  11. Animals and Plants under Domestication, vol. ii. pp. 102, 103.
  12. As this argument is a rather difficult one to follow, while its theoretical importance is very great, I add here the following briefer exposition of it, in a series of propositions; being, with a few verbal alterations, a copy of what I wrote on the subject about twenty years back. Some readers may find this easier to follow than the fuller discussion in the text:—
    Can Sterility of Hybrids have been Produced by Natural Selection?
    1. Let there be a species which has varied into two forms each adapted to certain existing conditions better than the parent form, which they soon supplant.
    2. If these two forms, which are supposed to coexist in the same district, do not intercross, natural selection will accumulate all favourable variations till they become well suited to their conditions of life, and form two slightly differing species.
    3. But if these two forms freely intercross with each other, and produce hybrids, which are also quite fertile inter se, then the formation of the two distinct races or species will be retarded, or perhaps entirely prevented; for the offspring of the crossed unions will be more vigorous owing to the cross, although less adapted to their conditions of life than either of the pure breeds.
    4. Now, let a partial sterility of the hybrids of some considerable proportion of these two forms arise; and, as this would probably be due to some special conditions of life, we may fairly suppose it to arise in some definite portion of the area occupied by the two forms.
    5. The result will be that, in that area, the hybrids (although continually produced by first crosses almost as freely as before) will not themselves increase so rapidly as the two pure forms; and as the two pure forms are, by the terms of the problem, better suited to their several conditions of life than the hybrids, they will inevitably increase more rapidly, and will continually tend to supplant the hybrids altogether at every recurrent severe struggle for existence.
    6. We may fairly suppose, also, that as soon as any sterility appears some disinclination to cross unions will appear, and this will further tend to the diminution of the production of hybrids.
    7. In the other part of the area, however, where hybridism occurs with perfect freedom, hybrids of various degrees may increase till they equal or even exceed in number the pure species—that is, the incipient species will be liable to be swamped by intercrossing.
    8. The first result, then, of a partial sterility of crosses appearing in one part of the area occupied by the two forms, will be—that the great majority of the individuals will there consist of the two pure forms only, while in the remaining part these will be in a minority,—which is the same as saying that the new physiological variety of the two forms will be better suited to the conditions of existence than the remaining portion which has not varied physiologically.
    9. But when the struggle for existence becomes severe, that variety which is best adapted to the conditions of existence always supplants that which is imperfectly adapted; therefore, by natural selection the varieties which are sterile when crossed will become established as the only ones.
    10. Now let variations in the amount of sterility and in the disinclination to crossed unions continue to occur—also in certain parts of the area: exactly the same result must recur, and the progeny of this new physiological variety will in time occupy the whole area.
    11. There is yet another consideration that would facilitate the process. It seems probable that the sterility variations would, to some extent, concur with, and perhaps depend upon, the specific variations; so that, just in proportion as the two forms diverged and became better adapted to the conditions of existence, they would become more sterile when intercrossed. If this were the case, then natural selection would act with double strength; and those which were better adapted to survive both structurally and physiologically would certainly do so.
  13. Cases of this kind are referred to at p. 155. It must, however, be noted, that such sterility in first crosses appears to be equally rare between different species of the same genus as between individuals of the same species. Mules and other hybrids are freely produced between very distinct species, but are themselves infertile or quite sterile; and it is this infertility or sterility of the hybrids that is the characteristic—and was once thought to be the criterion—of species, not the sterility of their first crosses. Hence we should not expect to find any constant infertility in the first crosses between the distinct strains or varieties that formed the starting-point of new species, but only a slight amount of infertility in their mongrel offspring. It follows, that Mr. Romanes' theory of Physiological Selection—which assumes sterility or infertility between first crosses as the fundamental fact in the origin of species—does not accord with the general phenomena of hybridism in nature.
  14. The exact number is 1219.51, but the fractions are omitted for clearness.