Page:Origin of Species 1859 facsimile.djvu/279

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Chap. VIII.

farmers and gardeners in their frequent exchanges of seed, tubers, &c., from one soil or climate to another, and back again. During the convalescence of animals, we plainly see that great benefit is derived from almost any change in the habits of life. Again, both with plants and animals, there is abundant evidence, that a cross between very distinct individuals of the same species, that is between members of different strains or sub-breeds, gives vigour and fertility to the offspring. I believe, indeed, from the facts alluded to in our fourth chapter, that a certain amount of crossing is indispensable even with hermaphrodites; and that close interbreeding continued during several generations between the nearest relations, especially if these be kept under the same conditions of life, always induces weakness and sterility in the progeny.

Hence it seems that, on the one hand, slight changes in the conditions of life benefit all organic beings, and on the other hand, that slight crosses, that is crosses between the males and females of the same species which have varied and become slightly different, give vigour and fertility to the offspring. But we have seen that greater changes, or changes of a particular nature, often render organic beings in some degree sterile; and that greater crosses, that is crosses between males and females which have become widely or specifically different, produce hybrids which are generally sterile in some degree. I cannot persuade myself that this parallelism is an accident or an illusion. Both series of facts seem to be connected together by some common but unknown bond, which is essentially related to the principle of life.

Fertility of Varieties when crossed, and of their Mongrel offspring.—It may be urged, as a most forcible argument,