Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/503

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487
PROFESSOR WEISMANN'S THEORIES.

with a body and head attached; and if he then remembers that every egg contains material for such a pair of eyes; he will see that eye-material constitutes a very considerable part of the fish's roe; and that, since the female fish provides this quantity every year, it can not be expensive. My argument against Weismann is strengthened rather than weakened by contemplation of these facts.

Prof. Lankester asks my attention to a hypothesis of his own, published in the Encyclopædia Britannica, concerning the production of blind cave-animals. He thinks it can—

"be fully explained by natural selection acting on congenital fortuitous variations. Many animals are thus born with distorted or defective eyes whose parents have not had their eyes submitted to any peculiar conditions. Supposing a number of some species of Arthropod or Fish to be swept into a cavern or to be carried from less to greater depths in the sea, those individuals with perfect eyes would follow the glimmer of light and eventually escape to the outer air or the shallower depths, leaving behind those with imperfect eyes to breed in the dark place. A natural selection would thus be effected" in successive generations.

First of all, I demur to the words "many animals." Under the abnormal conditions of domestication, congenitally defective eyes may be not very uncommon; but their occurrence under natural conditions is, I fancy, extremely rare. Supposing, however, that in a shoal of young fish, there occur some with eyes seriously defective. What will happen? Vision is all-important to the young fish, both for obtaining food and for escaping from enemies. This is implied by the immense development of eyes just referred to. Considering that out of the enormous number of young fish hatched with perfect eyes, not one in a hundred reaches maturity, what chance of surviving would there be for those with imperfect eyes? Inevitably they would be starved or be snapped up. Hence the chances that a matured or partially matured semi-blind fish, or rather two such, male and female, would be swept into a cave and left behind are extremely remote. Still more remote must the chances be in the case of crayfish. Sheltering themselves as these do under stones, in crevices, and in burrows which they make in the banks, and able quickly to anchor themselves to weeds or sticks by their claws, it seems scarcely supposable that any of them could be carried into a cave by a flood. What, then, is the probability that there will be two nearly blind ones, and that these will be thus carried? Then after this first extreme improbability, there comes a second, which we may, I think, rather call an impossibility. How would it be possible for creatures subject to so violent a change of habitat to

I survive? Surely death would quickly follow the subjection to such utterly unlike conditions and modes of life. The existence