Page:Origin of Species 1872.djvu/207

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mandible are serrated with teeth much more prominent, coarser and sharper than in the duck. The common goose does not sift the water, but uses its beak exclusively for tearing or cutting herbage, for which purpose it is so well fitted that it can crop grass closer than almost any other animal. There are other species of geese, as I hear from Mr. Bartlett, in which the lamellæ are less developed than in the common goose.

We thus see that a member of the duck family, with a beak constructed like that of a common goose and adapted solely for grazing, or even a member with a beak having less well-developed lamellæ, might be converted by small changes into a species like the Egyptian goose,— this into one like the common duck,— and, lastly, into one like the shoveller, provided with a beak almost exclusively adapted for sifting the water; for this bird could hardly use any part of its beak, except the hooked tip, for seizing or tearing solid food. The beak of a goose, as I may add, might also be converted by small changes into one provided with prominent, recurved teeth, like those of the Merganser (a member of the same family), serving for the widely different purpose of securing live fish.

Returning to the whales. The Hyperoodon bidens is destitute of true teeth in an efficient condition, but its palate is roughened, according to Lacepede, with small unequal, hard points of horn. There is, therefore, nothing improbable in supposing that some early Cetacean form was provided with similar points of horn on the palate, but rather more regularly placed, and which, like the knobs on the beak of the goose, aided it in seizing or tearing its food. If so, it will hardly be denied that the points might have been converted through variation and natural selection into lamellæ as well-developed as those of the Egyptian goose, in which case they would have been used both for seizing objects and for sifting the water; then into lamellæ like those of the domestic duck; and so onward, until they became as well constructed as those of the shoveller, in which case they would have served exclusively as a sifting apparatus. From this stage, in which the lamellæ would be two-thirds of the length of the plates of baleen in the Balænoptera rostrata, gradations, which may be observed in still-existing Cetaceans, lead us onward to the enormous plates of baleen in the Greenland whale. Nor is there the least reason to doubt that each step in this scale might have been as serviceable to certain ancient Cetaceans, with the functions of the parts slowly changing during the progress of development, as are the gradations in the beaks of the different existing members of the duck-family. We should bear in mind that each species of duck is subjected to a severe