Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/286

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

have a patch of bare black skin round the eyes, and a ruff of curious pale recurved feathers on the nape, whence their name of Friar-birds, the ruff being supposed to resemble the cowl of a friar. These peculiarities are imitated in the orioles by patches of feathers of corresponding colours; while the different tints of the two species in each island are exactly the same. Thus in Bouru both are earthy brown; in Ceram they are both washed with yellow ochre; in Timor the under surface is pale and the throat nearly white, and Mr. H.O. Forbes has recently discovered another pair in the island of Timor Laut. The close resemblance of these several pairs of birds, of widely different families, is quite comparable with that of many of the insects already described. It is so close that the preserved specimens have even deceived naturalists; for, in the great French work, Voyage de l'Astrolabe, the oriole of Bouru is actually described and figured as a honey-sucker; and Mr. Forbes tells us that, when his birds were submitted to Dr. Sclater for description, the oriole and the honey-sucker were, previous to close examination, considered to be the same species.


Objections to the Theory of Mimicry.

To set forth adequately the varied and surprising facts of mimicry would need a large and copiously illustrated volume; and no more interesting subject could be taken up by a naturalist who has access to our great collections and can devote the necessary time to search out the many examples of mimicry that lie hidden in our museums. The brief sketch of the subject that has been here given will, however, serve to indicate its nature, and to show the weakness of the objections that were at first made to it. It was urged that the action of "like conditions," with "accidental resemblances" and "reversion to ancestral types," would account for the facts. If, however, we consider the actual phenomena as here set forth, and the very constant conditions under which they occur, we shall see how utterly inadequate are these causes, either singly or combined. These constant conditions are—

1. That the imitative species occur in the same area and occupy the very same station as the imitated.
2. That the imitators are always the more defenceless.