Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/400

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376
CHAP.
DARWINISM

through which animals have passed, it will naturally be expected that we should find important evidence of evolution. We should hope to learn the steps by which some isolated forms have been connected with their nearest allies, and in many cases to have the gaps filled up which now separate genus from genus, or species from species. In some cases these expectations are fulfilled, but in many other cases we seek in vain for evidence of the kind we desire; and this absence of evidence with such an apparent wealth of material is held by many persons to throw doubt on the theory of evolution itself. They urge, with much appearance of reason, that all the arguments we have hitherto adduced fall short of demonstration, and that the crucial test consists in being able to show, in a great number of cases, those connecting links which we say must have existed. Many of the gaps that still remain are so vast that it seems incredible to these writers that they could ever have been filled up by a close succession of species, since these must have spread over so many ages, and have existed in such numbers, that it seems impossible to account for their total absence from deposits in which great numbers of species belonging to other groups are preserved and have been discovered. In order to appreciate the force, or weakness, of these objections, we must inquire into the character and completeness of that record of the past life of the earth which geology has unfolded, and ascertain the nature and amount of the evidence which, under actual conditions, we may expect to find.

The Number of known Species of Extinct Animals.

When we state that the known fossil mollusca are considerably more numerous than those which now live on the earth, it appears at first sight that our knowledge is very complete, but this is far from being the case. The species have been continually changing throughout geological time, and at each period have probably been as numerous as they are now. If we divide the fossiliferous strata into twelve great divisions—the Pliocene, Miocene, Eocene, Cretaceous, Oolite, Lias, Trias, Permian, Carboniferous, Devonian, Silurian, and Cambrian,—we find not only that each has a very distinct and characteristic molluscan fauna, but that the different sub-