Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/161

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DIFFICULTIES AND OBJECTIONS

which are not rudiments of once useful organs, we cannot see what there is to ensure any amount of constancy or stability. One of the cases on which Mr. Romanes lays great stress in his paper on "Physiological Selection" (Journ. Linn. Soc., vol. xix. p. 384) is that of the fleshy appendages on the corners of the jaw of Normandy pigs and of some other breeds. But it is expressly stated that they are not constant; they appear "frequently," or "occasionally," they are "not strictly inherited, for they occur or fail in animals of the same litter;" and they are not always symmetrical, sometimes appearing on one side of the face alone. Now whatever may be the cause or explanation of these anomalous appendages they cannot be classed with "specific characters," the most essential features of which are, that they are symmetrical,

of growth. But, when so reduced, the rudiment might be inconvenient or even hurtful, and then natural selection would aid in its complete abortion; in other words, the abortion of the part would be useful, and would therefore be subject to the law of survival of the fittest. The genera Ateles and Colobus are two of the most purely arboreal types of monkeys, and it is not difficult to conceive that the constant use of the elongated fingers for climbing from tree to tree, and catching on to branches while making great leaps, might require all the nervous energy and muscular growth to be directed to the fingers, the small thumb remaining useless. The case of the Potto is more difficult, both because it is, presumably, a more ancient type, and its actual life-history and habits are completely unknown. These cases are, therefore, not at all to the point as proving that positive specific characters—not mere rudiments characterising whole genera—are in any case useless.
Mr. Mivart further objects to the alleged rigidity of the action of natural selection, because wounded or malformed animals have been found which had evidently lived a considerable time in their imperfect condition. But this simply proves that they were living under a temporarily favourable environment, and that the real struggle for existence, in their case, had not yet taken place. We must surely admit that, when the pinch came, and when perfectly formed stoats were dying for want of food, the one-footed animal, referred to by Mr. Mivart, would be among the first to succumb; and the same remark will apply to his abnormally toothed hares and rheumatic monkeys, which might, nevertheless, get on very well under favourable conditions. The struggle for existence, under which all animals and plants have been developed, is intermittent, and exceedingly irregular in its incidence and severity. It is most severe and fatal to the young; but when an animal has once reached maturity, and especially when it has gained experience by several years of an eventful existence, it may be able to maintain itself under conditions which would be fatal to a young and inexperienced creature of the same species. The examples adduced by Mr. Mivart do not, therefore, in any way impugn the hardness of nature as a taskmaster, or the extreme severity of the recurring struggle for existence.[See Nature, vol. xxxix. p. 127.]