Page:Descent of Man 1875.djvu/205

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Chap. VII.
189
The Extincion of Races.

inter-breeding; but in the above cases infertility has coincided too closely with the arrival of Europeans for us to admit this explanation. Nor have we at present any reason to believe that man is highly sensitive to the evil effects of inter-breeding, especially in areas so large as New Zealand, and the Sandwich archipelago with its diversified stations. On the contrary, it is known that the present inhabitants of Norfolk Island are nearly all cousins or near relations, as are the Todas in India, and the inhabitants of some of the Western Islands of Scotland; and yet they seem not to have suffered in fertility.[1]

A much more probable view is suggested by the analogy of the lower animals. The reproductive system can be shewn to be susceptible to an extraordinary degree (though why we know not) to changed conditions of life; and this susceptibility leads both to beneficial and to evil results. A large collection of facts on this subject is given in chap. xviii. of vol. ii. of my Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, I can here give only the briefest abstract; and every one interested in the subject may consult the above work. Very slight changes increase the health, vigour, and fertility of most or all organic beings, whilst other changes are known to render a large number of animals sterile. One of the most familiar cases, is that of tamed elephants not breeding in India; though they often breed in Ava, where the females are allowed to roam about the forests to some extent, and are thus placed under more natural conditions. The case of various American monkeys, both sexes of which have been kept for many years together in their own countries, and yet have very rarely or never bred, is a more apposite instance, because of their relationship to man. It is remarkable how slight a change in the conditions often induces sterility in a wild animal when captured; and this is the more strange as all our domesticated animals have become more fertile than they were in a state of nature; and some of them can resist the most unnatural conditions with undiminished fertility.[2] Certain groups of animals are much more liable than others to be affected by captivity; and generally all the species of the same group are affected in the same manner. But sometimes a single species in a group is rendered sterile, whilst the others are not so; on the other hand, a single species may retain its fertility

  1. On the close relationship of the Norfolk Islanders, Sir W. Denison, 'Varieties of Vice-Regal Life,' vol. i., 1870, p. 410. For the Todas, see Col. Marshall's work 1873, p. 110. For the Western Islands of Scotland, Dr. Mitchell, 'Edinburgh Medical Journal,' March to June, 1865.
  2. For the evidence on this head, see 'Variation of Animals,' &c., vol. ii., p. 111.