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they differ considerably in their fossils, and you may then get some notion of how small a portion of the whole we know.
But yet more important is the probability, nay almost the certainty, that whole formations containing the records of vast geological periods are entirely buried beneath the ocean, and for ever beyond our reach. Most of the gaps in the geological series may thus be filled up, and vast numbers of unknown and unimaginable animals, which might help to elucidate the affinities of the numerous isolated groups which are a perpetual puzzle to the zoologist, may there be buried, till future revolutions may raise them in their turn above the waters, to afford materials for the study of whatever race of intelligent beings may then have succeeded us. These considerations must lead us to the conclusion, that our knowledge of the whole series of the former inhabitants of the earth is necessarily most imperfect and fragmentary,—as much so as our knowledge of the present organic world would be, were we forced to make our collections and observations only in spots equally limited in area and in number with those actually laid open for the collection of fossils. Now, the hypothesis of Professor Forbes is essentially one that assumes to a great extent the completeness of our knowledge of the whole series of organic beings which have existed on the earth. This appears to be a fatal objection to it, independently of all other considerations. It may be said that the same objections exist against every theory on such a subject, but this is not necessarily the case. The hypothesis put forward in this paper depends in no degree upon the completeness of our knowledge of the former condition of the organic world, but takes what facts we have as fragments of a vast whole, and deduces from them something of the nature and proportions of that whole which we can never know in detail. It is founded upon isolated groups of facts, recognizes their isolation, and endeavours to deduce from them the nature of the intervening portions.
Rudimentary Organs Another important series of facts, quite in accordance with, and even necessary deductions from, the law now developed, are those of rudimentary organs. That these really do exist, and in most cases have no special function in the animal economy, is admitted by the first authorities in comparative anatomy. The minute limbs hidden beneath the skin in many of the snake-like lizards, the anal hooks of the boa constrictor, the complete series of jointed finger- bones in the paddle of the Manatus and whale, are a few of the most familiar instances. In botany a similar class of facts has been long recognised. Abortive stamens, rudimentary floral envelopes and undeveloped carpels, are of the most frequent occurrence. To every thoughtful naturalist the question must arise, What are these for? What have they to do with the great laws of creation ? Do they not teach us something of the system of Nature ? If each species has been created independently, and without any necessary relations with pre-existing species, what do these rudiments, these apparent imperfections mean? There must be a cause for them; they must be the necessary results of some great natural law. Now, if, as it has been endeavoured to be shown, the great law which has regulated the peopling of the earth with animal and vegetable life is, that every change shall be gradual; that no new creature shall be formed widely differing from anything before existing; that in this, as in everything else in Nature, there shall be gradation and harmony,—then these rudimentary organs are necessary, and are an essential part of the system of Nature. Ere the higher Vertebrata were formed, for instance, many steps were required, and many organs had to undergo modifications from the rudimental condition in which only they had as yet existed. We still see remaining an antitypal sketch of a wing adapted for flight in the scaly flapper of the penguin, and limbs first concealed beneath the skin, and then weakly protruding from it, were the necessary gradations before others should be formed fully adapted for locomotion.* Many more of these modificar tions should we behold, and more complete series of them, had we a view of all the forms which have ceased to live. The great gaps that exist between fishes, reptiles, birds, and mammals would then, no doubt, be softened down by intermediate groups, and the whole organic world would be seen to be an unbroken and harmonious system
* The theory of Natural Selection has now taught us that these are not the steps by which limbs have been formed; and that most rudimentary organs have been produced by abortion, owing to disuse, as explained by Mr. Darwin.
Conclusion. It has now been shown, though most briefly and imperfectly, how the law that “Every species has come into existence coincident both in time and space with a pre-existing closely allied species,” connects together and renders intelligible a vast number of independent and hitherto unexplained facts. The natural system of arrangement of organic beings, their geographical distribution, their geological sequence, the phænomena of representative and substituted groups in all their modifications, and the most singular peculiarities of anatomical structure, are all explained and illustrated by it, in perfect accordance with the vast mass of facts which the researches of modern naturalists have brought together, and, it is believed, not materially opposed to any of them. It also claims a superiority over previous hypotheses, on the ground that it not merely explains, but necessitates what exists. Granted the law, and many of the most important facts in Nature could not have been otherwise, but are almost as necessary deductions from it, as are the elliptic orbits of the planets from the law of gravitation.
ON THE TENDENCY OF VARIETIES TO
DEPART INDEFINITELY FROM THE
Instability of Varieties supposed to prove the permanent
distinctness of Species. ONE of the strongest arguments which have been adduced to prove the original and permanent distinctness of species is, that varieties produced in a state of domesticity are more or less unstable, and often have a tendency, if left to themselves, to return to the normal form of the parent species; and this instability is considered to be a distinctive peculiarity of all varieties, even of those occurring among wild animals in a state of nature, and to constitute a provision for preserving unchanged the originally created distinct species.
In the absence or scarcity of facts and observations as to varieties occurring among wild animals, this argument has had great weight with naturalists, and has led to a very general and somewhat
* Written at Ternate, February, 1858; and published in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society for August, 1858.