Page:Origin of Species 1872.djvu/326

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on the descendants from a species being thus enabled to seize on many and different places in the economy of nature. Therefore it is quite possible, as we have seen in the case of some Silurian forms, that a species might go on being slightly modified in relation to its slightly altered conditions of life, and yet retain throughout a vast period the same general characteristics. This is represented in the diagram by the letter .

All the many forms, extinct and recent, descended from (A), make, as before remarked, one order; and this order, from the continued effects of extinction and divergence of character, has become divided into several sub-families and families, some of which are supposed to have perished at different periods, and some to have endured to the present day.

By looking at the diagram we can see that if many of the extinct forms supposed to be embedded in the successive formations, were discovered at several points low down in the series, the three existing families on the uppermost line would be rendered less distinct from each other. If, for instance, the genera , , , , , , , were disinterred, these three families would be so closely linked together that they probably would have to be united into one great family, in nearly the same manner as has occurred with ruminants and certain pachyderms. Yet he who objected to consider as intermediate the extinct genera, which thus link together the living genera of three families, would be partly justified, for they are intermediate, not directly, but only by a long and circuitous course through many widely different forms. If many extinct forms were to be discovered above one of the middle horizontal lines or geological formations — for instance, above No. VI. — but none from beneath this line, then only two of the families (those on the left hand , &c., and , &c.) would have to be united into one; and there would remain two families which would be less distinct from each other than they were before the discovery of the fossils. So again, if the three families formed of eight genera ( to ), on the uppermost line, be supposed to differ from each other by half-a-dozen important characters, then the families which existed at a period marked VI would certainly have differed from each other by a less number of characters; for they would at this early stage of descent have diverged in a less degree from their common progenitor. Thus it comes that ancient and extinct genera are often in a greater or less degree intermediate in character between their modified descendants, or between their collateral relations.

Under nature the process will be far more complicated than is