Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/236

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C. The Mechanism of Heredity

The mechanism of heredity, as contrasted with the mechanism of development, consists in the formation of particular kinds of germ cells and in the union of certain of these cells in fertilization. We have briefly traced the origin, maturation and union of male and female sex cells in a number of animals, and in these phenomena we have the mechanism of the hereditary continuity between successive generations. But in addition to these specific facts there are certain general considerations which need to be emphasized.


I. The Specificity of Germ Cells

The conclusion is inevitable that the germ cells of different species and even those of different individuals are not all alike. Every individual difference between organisms must be due to one or more differentiating causes or factors. Specific results come only from specific causes. These causes may be found in the organization of the germ cells or in environmental stimuli, i. e., they may be intrinsic or extrinsic, but as a matter of fact experience has shown that they are generally intrinsic in the germ. In the same environment one egg becomes a chicken and another a duck; one becomes a frog, and another a fish, and another a snail; one becomes a black guinea-pig and another a white one; one becomes a male and another a female; one gives rise to a tall man and another to a short man, etc. Since these differences may occur in the same environment they must be due to differences in the germ cells concerned.

On the other hand, different environmental conditions may he associated with similar developmental results. Loeb and others have found that artificial parthenogenesis may be induced by a great variety of environmental stimuli, viz., by salt solutions, by acids and alkalies, by fatty acids and fat solvents, by alkaloids and cyanides, by blood serum and sperm extract, by heat and cold, by agitation and electric current. There is certainly nothing specific in these different stimuli. Similarly, Stockard has discovered that cyclopia, or one-eyed monsters, may be produced by magnesium salts, alcohol, chloretone, chloroform, and ether. In all such cases it is evident that the specific results of such treatment