« EelmineJätka »
to assist in incubation. It is possible, therefore, that the group may originally have used open nests, and some change of conditions, leading the male bird to sit, may have been followed by the adoption of a domed nest. This is, however, the most serious exception I have yet found to the general rule.
6. Superb warblers (Maluridæ). The males of these little birds are adorned with the most gorgeous colours, while the females are very plain, yet they make domed nests. It is to be observed, however, that the male plumage is nuptial merely, and is retained for a very short time; the rest of the year both sexes are plain alike. It is probable, therefore, that the domed nest is for the protection of these delicate little birds against the rain, and that there is some unknown cause which has led to the development of colour in the males only.
There is one other case which at first sight looks like an exception, but which is far from being one in reality, and deserves to be mentioned. In the beautiful Waxwing, (Bombycilla garrula,) the sexes are very nearly alike, and the elegant red wax tips to the wing-feathers are nearly, and sometimes quite, as conspicuous in the female as in the male. Yet it builds an open nest, and a person looking at the bird would say it ought according to my theory to cover its nest. But it is, in reality, as completely protected by its colouration as the most plainly coloured bird that flies. It breeds only in very high latitudes, and the nest, placed in fir-trees, is formed chiefly of lichens. Now the delicate gray and ashy and purplish hues of the head and back, together with the yellow of the wings and tail, are tints that exactly harmonize with the colours of various species of lichens, while the brilliant red wax tips exactly represent the crimson fructification of the common lichen, Cladonia coccifera. When sitting on its nest, therefore, the female bird will exhibit no colours that are not common to the materials of which it is constructed; and the several tints are distributed in about the same proportions as they occur in nature. At a short distance the bird would be indistinguishable from the nest it is sitting on, or from a natural clump of lichens, and will thus be completely protected.
I think I have now roticed all exceptions of any importance to the law of dependence of sexual colour on nidification. It will be seen that they are very few in number, compared with those which support the generalization; and in several cases there are circumstances in the habits or structure of the species that sufficiently explain them. It is remarkable also that I have found scarcely any positive exceptions, that is, cases of very brilliant or conspicuous female birds in which the nest was not concealed. Much less can there be shown any group of birds, in which the females are all of decidedly conspicuous colours on the upper surface, and yet sit in open nests. The many cases in which birds of dull colours in both sexes make domed or concealed nests, do not, of course, affect this theory one way or the other; since its purpose is only to account for the fact, that brilliant females of brilliant males are always found to have covered or hidden nests, while obscure females of brilliant males almost always have open and exposed nests. The fact that all classes of nests occur with dull coloured birds in both sexes merely shows, as I have strongly maintained, that in most cases the character of the nest determines the colouration of the female, and not vice versâ.
If the views here advocated are correct, as to the various influences that have determined the specialities of every bird's nest, and the general colouration of female birds, with their action and reaction on each other, we can hardly expect to find evidence more complete than that here set forth. Nature is such a tangled web of complex relations, that a series of correspondences running through hundreds of species, genera, and families, in every part of the system, can hardly fail to indicate a true casual connexion; and when, of the two factors in the problem, one can be shown to be dependent on the most deeply seated and the most stable facts of structure and conditions of life, while the other is a character universally admitted to be superficial and easily modified, there can be little doubt as to which is cause and which effect.
Various modes of Protection of Animals. But the explanation of the phenomenon here attempted does not rest alone on the facts I have been able now to adduce. In the essay on “ Mimicry," it is shown how important a part the necessity for protection has played, in determining the external form and colouration, and sometimes even the internal structure of animals.
As illustrating this latter point, I may refer to the remarkable hooked, branched, or star-like spiculæ in many sponges, which are believed to have the function chiefly, of rendering them unpalatable to other creatures. The Holothuridæ or sea-cucumbers possess a similar protection, many of them having anchor-shaped spicules embedded in their skin, as the Synapta; while others (Cuviera squamata) are covered with a hard calcareous pavement. Many of these are of a bright red or purple colour, and are very conspicuous, while the allied Trepang, or Beche-de-mer (Holothuria edulis), which is not armed with any such defensive weapons, is of a dull sand- or mud-colour, so as hardly to be distinguished from the sea bed on which it reposes. Many of the smaller marine animals are protected by their almost invisible transparency, while those that are most brightly coloured will be often found to have a special protection, either in stinging tentacles like Physalia, or in a hard calcareous crust, as in the star fishes.
Females of some Groups require and obtain more Pro
tection than the Males. In the struggle for existence incessantly going on, protection or concealment is one of the most general and most effectual means of maintaining life; and it is by modifications of colour that this protection can be most readily obtained, since no other character is subject to such numerous and rapid variations. The case I have now endeavoured to illustrate is exactly analogous to what occurs among butterflies. As a general rule, the female butterfly is of dull and inconspicuous colours, even when the male is most gorgeously arrayed; but when the species is protected from attack by a disagreeable odour, as in the Heliconidæ, Danaidæ and Acreidæ, both sexes display the same or equally brilliant hues. Among the species which gain a protection by imitating these, the very weak and slow-flying Leptalides resemble them in both sexes, because both sexes alike require protection, while in the more active and strong-winged genera—Papilio, Pieris, and Diadema--it is generally the females only that mimic the protected groups, and in doing so often become actually more gay and more conspicuous than the males, thus reversing the usual and in fact almost universal characters of the sexes. So, in the wonderful Eastern leafinsects of the genus Phyllium, it is the female only that so marvellously imitates a green leaf; and in all these cases the difference can be traced to the greater need of protection for the female, on whose continued existence, while depositing her eggs, the safety of the race depends. In Mammalia and in reptiles, however brilliant the colours may be, there is rarely any difference between that of the sexes, because the female is not necessarily more exposed to attack than the male. It may, I think, be looked upon as a confirmation of this view, that no single case is known either in the