Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/153

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the whole of the sixth and seventh chapters of the last edition of The Origin of Species, in which these and many other cases are discussed in considerable detail.


Useless or non-adaptive Characters.

Many naturalists seem to be of opinion that a considerable number of the characters which distinguish species are of no service whatever to their possessors, and therefore cannot have been produced or increased by natural selection. Professors Bronn and Broca have urged this objection on the continent. In America, Dr. Cope, the well-known palæontologist, has long since put forth the same objection, declaring that non-adaptive characters are as numerous as those which are adaptive; but he differs completely from most who hold the same general opinion in considering that they occur chiefly "in the characters of the classes, orders, families, and other higher groups;" and the objection, therefore, is quite distinct from that in which it is urged that "specific characters" are mostly useless. More recently, Professor G. J. Romanes has urged this difficulty in his paper on "Physiological Selection" (Journ. Linn. Soc., vol. xix. pp. 338, 344). He says that the characters "which serve to distinguish allied species are frequently, if not usually, of a kind with which natural selection can have had nothing to do," being without any utilitarian significance. Again he speaks of "the enormous number," and further on of "the innumerable multitude" of specific peculiarities which are useless; and he finally declares that the question needs no further arguing, "because in the later editions of his works Mr. Darwin freely acknowledges that a large proportion of specific distinctions must be conceded to be useless to the species presenting them."

I have looked in vain in Mr. Darwin's works to find any such acknowledgment, and I think Mr. Romanes has not sufficiently distinguished between "useless characters" and "useless specific distinctions." On referring to all the passages indicated by him I find that, in regard to specific characters, Mr. Darwin is very cautious in admitting inutility. His most pronounced "admissions" on this question are the following: "But when, from the nature of the organism and of the conditions, modifications have been induced which are