Finally, I must mention the notes on the colouration of the Cat tribe. After referring to Darwin's remarks on the stripes occurring on young Lions, and also to Steedman's observation that these markings are likewise fœtal (p. 462), Mr. Distant proceeds to say: "It seems more in consonance with present knowledge and opinion to consider that spots, though primitive, were not original, and succeeded, not preceded, unicolorous ornamentation, which has survived only where it has been more or less in unison with the creature's environment, and so afforded aggressive protection, as in the case of the Lion" (p. 464). Seeing that the fœtal markings distinctly prove that, at least, the immediate ancestors of the Lion were striped animals, and that therefore its present unicolorous coat must have been subsequently acquired, it is certainly difficult to understand how this animal can be adduced as a survival of a supposed primitive assimilative colouration!
In conclusion, I can only regret that my notes on Mr. Distant's paper have been perforce entirely critical. Although I, as a selectionist, cannot regard as sound the suggestions which he puts forward, I can still appreciate their value in drawing attention to these interesting topics. And I trust that some reader of the 'Zoologist,' more competent to discuss these matters than myself, will in turn point out any errors that may exist in my own arguments and contentions; for it is only by healthy discussion, followed by more careful observation and experiment, that we can hope to attain a true insight into those large biological problems, the solution of which is the ultimate aim of all natural science.—Guy A.K. Marshall (Salisbury, Mashonaland).
- On page 462, the writer of these suggestions, which Mr. Marshall is criticizing, actually states: "A fact, however, which very strongly stands against the view of original assimilative colouration here assumed, is found in the markings of the young of all the unicolorous Cats—Lion, Puma, &c.—which are more or less indistinctly spotted or striped; and as many allied species, both young and old, are similarly marked, Darwin has observed that 'no believer in evolution will doubt that the progenitor of the Lion and Puma was a striped animal, and that the young have retained vestiges of the stripes, like the kittens of black Cats, which are not in the least striped when grown up.' .... Taking the cases of the Lion, Puma, and Cheetah, we see that the two first, unicolorous in their adult stage, apparently show by their spotted young a derivation from a similarly coloured ancestor, whilst the spotted Cheetah, from the apparent evidence of its unicolorous young, would point to a totally different conclusion" (p. 463).—Ed.