Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/203

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VII
181
ON THE INFERTILITY OF CROSSES

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

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.