Page images

are rare and probably dying out, and would cease to have any effect should the proportionate abundance of the two species be reversed, it follows that on the special-creation theory the one species must have been created plentiful, the other rare ; and, notwithstanding the many causes that continually tend to alter the proportions of species, these two species must have always been specially maintained at their respective proportions, or the very purpose for which they each received their peculiar characteristics would have completely failed. A third difficulty is, that although it is very easy to understand how mimicry may be brought about by variation and the survival of the fittest, it seems a very strange thing for a Creator to protect an animal by making it imitate another, when the very assumption of a Creator implies his power to create it so as to require no such circuitous protection. These appear to be fatal objections to the application of the special-creation theory to this particular case.

The other two supposed explanations, which may be shortly expressed as the theories of " similar conditions” and of “ heredity," agree in making mimicry, where it exists, an adventitious circumstance not necessarily connected with the well-being of the mimicking species. But several of the most striking and most constant facts which have been adduced, directly contradict both these hypotheses. The law that mimicry is confined to a few groups only is one of these, for “ similar conditions” must act more or less on all groups in a limited region, and “heredity” must influence all groups related to each other in an equal degree. Again, the general fact that those species which mimic others are rare, while those which are imitated are abundant, is in no way explained by either of these theories, any more than is the frequent occurrence of some palpable mode of protection in the imitated species. “Reversion to an ancestral type” no way explains why the imitator and the imitated always inhabit the very same district, whereas allied forms of every degree of nearness and remoteness generally inhabit different countries, and often different quarters of the globe; and neither it, nor " similar conditions,” will account for the likeness between species of distinct groups being superficial onlya disguise, not a true resemblance; for the imitation of bark, of leaves, of sticks, of dung; for the resemblance between species in different orders, and even different classes and sub-kingdoms; and finally, for the graduated series of the phenomena, beginning with a general harmony and adaptation of tint in autumn and winter moths and in arctic and desert animals, and ending with those complete cases of detailed mimicry which not only deceive predacious animals, but puzzle the most experienced insect collectors and the most learned entomologists.

Mimicry by Female Insects only. But there is yet another series of phenomena connected with this subject, which considerably strengthens the view here adopted, while it seems quite incompatible with either of the other hypotheses ; namely, the relation of protective colouring and mimicry to the sexual differences of animals. It will be clear to every one that if two animals, which as regards “ external conditions” and “hereditary descent,” are exactly alike, yet differ remarkably in colouration, one resembling a protected species and the other not, the resemblance that exists in one only can hardly be imputed to the influence of external conditions or as the effect of heredity. And if, further, it can be proved that the one requires protection more than the other, and that in several cases it is that one which mimics the protected species, while the one that least requires protection never does so, it will afford very strong corroborative evidence that there is a real connexion between the necessity for protection and the phenomenon of mimicry. Now the sexes of insects offer us a test of the nature here indicated, and appear to furnish one of the most conclusive arguments in favour of the theory that the phenomena termed “ mimicry” are produced by natural selection.

The comparative importance of the sexes varies much in different classes of animals. In the higher vertebrates, where the number of young produced at a birth is small and the same individuals breed many years in succession, the preservation of both sexes is almost equally important. In all the numerous cases in which the male protects the female and her offspring, or helps to supply them with food, his importance in the economy of nature is proportionately increased, though it is never perhaps quite equal to that of the female. In insects the case is very different; they pair but once in their lives, and the prolonged existence of the male is in most cases quite unnecessary for the continuance of the race. The female, however, must continue to exist long enough to deposit her eggs in a place adapted for the development and growth of the progeny. Hence there is a wide difference in the need for protection in the two sexes; and we should, therefore, expect to find that in some cases the special protection given to the female was in the male less in amount or altogether wanting. The facts entirely confirm this expectation. In the spectre insects (Phasmidæ) it is often the females alone that so strikingly resemble leaves, while the males show only a rude approximation. The male Diadema misippus is a very handsome and conspicuous butterfly, without a sign of protective or imitative colouring, while the female is entirely unlike her partner, and is one of the most wonderful cases of mimicry on record, resembling most accurately the common Danais chrysippus, in whose company it is often found. So in several species of South American Pieris, the males are white and black, of a similar type of colouring to our own 6 cabbage” butterflies, while the females are rich yellow and buff, spotted and marked so as exactly to resemble species of Heliconidæ with which they associate in the forest. · In the Malay archipelago is found a Diadema which had always been considered a male insect on account of its glossy metallic-blue tints, while its companion of sober brown was looked upon as the female. I discovered, however, that the reverse is the case, and that the rich and glossy colours of the female are imitative and protective, since they cause her exactly to resemble the common Euplæa midamus of the same regions, a species which has been already mentioned in this essay as mimicked by another butterfly, Papilio paradoxa. I have since named this interesting species Diadema anomala (see the Transactions of the Entomological Society, 1869, p. 285). In this case, and in that of Diadema misippus, there is no difference in the habits of the two sexes, which fly in similar localities; so that the influence of " external conditions” cannot be invoked here as it has been in the case of the South American Pieris pyrrha and allies, where the white males frequent open sunny places, while the Heliconia-like females haunt the shades of the forest.

We may impute to the same general cause (the greater need of protection for the female, owing to her weaker flight, greater exposure to attack, and supreme importance)—the fact of the colours of female insects being so very generally duller and less conspicuous than those of the other sex. And that it is chiefly due to this cause rather than to what Mr. Darwin terms “sexual selection” appears to be shown by the otherwise inexplicable fact, that in the groups which have a protection of any kind independent of concealment, sexual differences of colour are either quite wanting or slightly developed. The

« EelmineJätka »