Page:Origin of Species 1872.djvu/282

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tried on natural varieties), and this implies that there has been recent variability; which would often continue and would augment that arising from the act of crossing. The slight variability of hybrids in the first generation, in contrast with that in the succeeding generations, is a curious fact and deserves attention. For it bears on the view which I have taken of one of the causes of ordinary variability; namely, that the reproductive system, from being eminently sensitive to changed conditions of life, fails under these circumstances to perform its proper function of producing offspring closely similar in all respects to the parent-form. Now, hybrids in the first generation are descended from species (excluding those long cultivated) which have not had their reproductive systems in any way affected, and they are not variable; but hybrids themselves have their reproductive systems seriously affected, and their descendants are highly variable.

But to return to our comparison of mongrels and hybrids: Gärtner states that mongrels are more liable than hybrids to revert to either parent form; but this, if it be true, is certainly only a difference in degree. Moreover, Gärtner expressly states that the hybrids from long cultivated plants are more subject to reversion than hybrids from species in their natural state; and this probably explains the singular difference in the results arrived at by different observers. Thus Max Wichura doubts whether hybrids ever revert to their parent forms, and he experimented on uncultivated species of willows, while Naudin, on the other hand, insists in the strongest terms on the almost universal tendency to reversion in hybrids, and he experimented chiefly on cultivated plants. Gärtner further states that when any two species, although most closely allied to each other, are crossed with a third species, the hybrids are widely different from each other; whereas if two very distinct varieties of one species are crossed with another species, the hybrids do not differ much. But this conclusion, as far as I can make out, is founded on a single experiment; and seems directly opposed to the results of several experiments made by Kölreuter.

Such alone are the unimportant differences which Gärtner is able to point out between hybrid and mongrel plants. On the other hand, the degrees and kinds of resemblance in mongrels and in hybrids to their respective parents, more especially in hybrids produced from nearly related species, follow, according to Gärtner the same laws. When two species are crossed, one has sometimes a prepotent power of impressing its likeness on the hybrid. So I believe it to be with varieties of plants; and with animals, one variety certainly often has this prepotent power over another