Page:Descent of Man 1875.djvu/276

This page has been validated.
260
Part II.
The Descent of Man.

see that the whole problem is so intricate that it is safer to leave its solution for the future.


CHAPTER IX.

Secondary Sexual Characters in the Lower Classes of the Animal Kingdom.

These characters absent in the lowest classes—Brilliant colours—Mollusca—Annelids—Crustacea, secondary sexual characters strongly developed; dimorphism; colour; characters not acquired before maturity—Spiders, sexual colours of; stridulation by the males—Myriapoda.

With animals belonging to the lower classes, the two sexes are not rarely united in the same individual, and therefore secondary sexual characters cannot be developed. In many cases where the sexes are separate, both are permanently attached to some support, and the one cannot search or struggle for the other. Moreover it is almost certain that these animals have too imperfect senses and much too low mental powers, to appreciate each other's beauty or other attractions, or to feel rivalry.

Hence in these classes or sub-kingdoms, such as the Protozoa, Cœlenterata, Echinodermata, Scolecida, secondary sexual characters, of the kind which we have to consider, do not occur; and this fact agrees with the belief that such characters in the higher classes have been acquired through sexual selection, which depends on the will, desire, and choice of either sex. Nevertheless some few apparent exceptions occur; thus, as I hear from Dr. Baird, the males of certain Entozoa, or internal parasitic worms, differ slightly in colour from the females; but we have no reason to suppose that such differences have been augmented through sexual selection. Contrivances by which the male holds the female, and which are indispensable for the propagation of the species, are independent of sexual selection, and have been acquired through ordinary selection.

Many of the lower animals, whether hermaphrodites or with separate sexes, are ornamented with the most brilliant tints, or are shaded and striped in an elegant manner; for instance, many corals and sea-anemones (Actiniæ), some jelly-fish (Medusæ, Porpita, &c.), some Planariæ, many star-fishes, Echini, Ascidians, &c.; but we may conclude from the reasons already indicated, namely the union of the two sexes in some of these animals, the permanently affixed condition of others, and the low mental powers of all, that such colours do not serve as a sexual attraction, and have not been acquired through sexual selection.