The phenomena of yolk-segmentation, first observed by Prevost and Dumas, are now known to be in some form or other invariably the precursors of embryonic development; while they reproduce, as the first stages in the formation of the higher animals, the main and essential features in the life-history of the lowest forms. The "blastoderm," as it is called, or first germ of the embryo in the egg, divides itself into two layers, corresponding, as Huxley has shown, to the two layers into which the body of the Cœlenterata may be divided. Not only so, but most embryos at an early stage of development have the form of a cup, the walls of which are formed by the two layers of the blastoderm. Kowalevsky was the first to show the prevalence of this embryonic form, and subsequently Lankester and Haeckel put forward the hypothesis that it was the embryonic repetition of an ancestral type, from which all the higher forms are descended. The cavity of the cup is supposed to be the stomach of this simple organism, and the opening of the cup the mouth. The inner layer of the wall of the cup constitutes the digestive membrane, and the outer the skin. To this form Haeckel gave the name Gastrœa. It is perhaps doubtful whether the theory of Lancaster and Haeckel can be accepted in precisely the form they propounded it; but it has had an important influence on the progress of embryology. I can not quit the science of embryology without alluding to the very admirable work on "Comparative Embryology" by our new general secretary, Mr. Balfour, and also the "Elements of Embryology" which he had previously published in conjunction with Dr. M. Foster.
In 1842 Steenstrup published his celebrated work on the "Alternation of Generations," in which he showed that many species are represented by two perfectly distinct types or broods, differing in form, structure, and habits; that in one of them males are entirely wanting, and that the reproduction is effected by fission, or by buds, which, however, are in some cases structurally indistinguishable from eggs. Steenstrup's illustrations were mainly taken from marine or parasitic species, of very great interest, but not generally familiar, excepting to naturalists. It has since been shown that the common Cynips, or gall-fly, is also a case in point. It had long been known that in some genera belonging to this group males are entirely wanting, and it has now been shown by Bassett, and more thoroughly by Adler, that some of these species are double-brooded; the two broods having been considered as distinct genera. Thus, an insect known as Neuroterus lenticularis, of which females only occur, produces the familiar oak-spangles so common on the under sides of oak-leaves, from which emerge, not Neuroterus lenticularis, but an insect hitherto considered as a distinct species, belonging even to a different genus (Spathegaster baccarum). In Spathegaster both sexes occur; they produce the currant-like galls found on oaks, and from these galls Neuroterus is again developed. So also the King Charles oak-apples produce a species known as Teras terminalis,