Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/156

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134
CHAP.
DARWINISM

cases by downy seeds to be wafted through the air, or by hooked or sticky seed-vessels to be carried away, attached to skin, wool, or feathers.

Here, then, we have an enormous extension of the region of utility in the vegetable kingdom, and one, moreover, which includes almost all the specific characters of plants. For the species of plants are usually characterised either by differences in the form, size, and colour of the flowers, or of the fruits; or, by peculiarities in the shape, size, dentation, or arrangement of the leaves; or by peculiarities in the spines, hairs, or down with which various parts of the plant are clothed. In the case of plants it must certainly be admitted that "specific" characters are pre-eminently adaptive; and though there may be some which are not so, yet all those referred to by Darwin as having been adduced by various botanists as useless, either pertain to genera or higher groups, or are found in some plants of a species only—that is, are individual variations not specific characters.

In the case of animals, the most recent wide extension of the sphere of utility has been in the matter of their colours and markings. It was of course always known that certain creatures gained protection by their resemblance to their normal surroundings, as in the case of white arctic animals, the yellow or brown tints of those living in deserts, and the green hues of many birds and insects surrounded by tropical vegetation. But of late years these cases have been greatly increased both in number and variety, especially in regard to those which closely imitate special objects among which they live; and there are other kinds of coloration which long appeared to have no use. Large numbers of animals, more especially insects, are gaudily coloured, either with vivid hues or with striking patterns, so as to be very easily seen. Now it has been found, that in almost all these cases the creatures possess some special quality which prevents their being attacked by the enemies of their kind whenever the peculiarity is known; and the brilliant or conspicuous colours or markings serve as a warning or signal flag against attack. Large numbers of insects thus coloured are nauseous and inedible; others, like wasps and bees, have stings; others are too hard to be eaten by small birds; while snakes with