Page:Descent of Man 1875.djvu/256

This page has been validated.
Part II.
The Descent of Man.

appeared in the parents. But these rules, owing to unknown causes, are far from being fired. Hence during the modification of a species, the successive changes may readily be transmitted in different ways; some to one sex, and some to both; some to the offspring at one age, and some to the offspring at all ages. Not only are the laws of inheritance extremely complex, but so are the causes which induce and govern variability. The variations thus induced are preserved and accumulated by sexual selection, which is in itself an extremely complex affair, depending, as it does, on the ardour in love, the courage, and the rivalry of the males, as well as on the powers of perception, the taste, and will of the female. Sexual selection will also be largely dominated by natural selection tending towards the general welfare of the species. Hence the manner in which the individuals of either or both sexes have been affected through sexual selection cannot fail to be complex in the highest degree.

When variations occur late in life in one sex, and are transmitted to the same sex at the same age, the other sex and the young are left unmodified. When they occur late in life, but are transmitted to both sexes at the same age, the young alone are left unmodified. Variations, however, may occur at any period of life in one sex or in both, and be transmitted to both sexes at all ages, and then all the individuals of the species are similarly modified. In the following chapters it will be seen that all these cases frequently occur in nature.

Sexual selection can never act on any animal before the age for reproduction arrives. From the great eagerness of the male it has generally acted on this sex and not on the females. The males have thus become provided with weapons for fighting with their rivals, with organs for discovering and securely holding the female, and for exciting or charming her. When the sexes differ in these respects, it is also, as we have seen, an extremely general law that the adult male differs more or less from the young male; and we may conclude from this fact that the successive variations, by which the adult male became modified, did not generally occur much before the age for reproduction. Whenever some or many of the variations occurred early in life, the young males would partake more or less of the characters of the adult males; and differences of this kind between the old and young males may be observed in many species of animals.

It is probable that young male animals have often tended to vary in a manner which would not only have been of no use to them at an early age, but would have been actually injurious—