Page:Origin of Species 1872.djvu/27

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


CHAPTER I.


Variation under Domestication.


Causes of Variability — Effects of Habit and the use or disuse of Parts — Correlated Variation — Inheritance — Character of Domestic Varieties — Difficulty of distinguishing between Varieties and Species — Origin of Domestic Varieties from one or more Species — Domestic Pigeons, their Differences and Origin — Principles of Selection, anciently followed, their Effects — Methodical and Unconscious Selection — Unknown Origin of our Domestic Productions — Circumstances favourable to Man's power of Selection.


Causes of Variability

When we look to the individuals of the same variety or sub-variety of our older cultivated plants and animals, one of the first points which strikes us, is, that they generally differ much more from each other, than do the individuals of any one species or variety in a state of nature. When we reflect on the vast diversity of the plants and animals which have been cultivated, and which have varied during all ages under the most different climates and treatment, I think we are driven to conclude that this greater variability is simply due to our domestic productions having been raised under conditions of life not so uniform as, and somewhat different from, those to which the parent-species have been exposed under nature. There is, also, I think, some probability in the view propounded by Andrew Knight, that this variability may be partly connected with excess of food. It seems pretty clear that organic beings must be exposed during several generations to the new conditions of life to cause any appreciable amount of variation; and that when the organisation has once begun to vary, it generally continues to vary for many generations. No case is on record of a variable being ceasing to be variable under cultivation. Our oldest cultivated plants, such as wheat, still often yield new varieties: our oldest domesticated animals are still capable of rapid improvement or modification.

As far as I am able to judge, after long attending to the subject, the conditions of life appear to act in two ways, — directly on the whole organisation or on certain parts alone and in directly by affecting the reproductive system. With respect to the direct