Page:Origin of Species 1872.djvu/331

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own class, might beat cephalopods, the highest molluscs; and such crustaceans, though not highly developed, would stand very high in the scale of invertebrate animals, if judged by the most decisive of all trials — the law of battle. Beside these inherent difficulties in deciding which forms are the most advanced in organisation, we ought not solely to compare the highest members of a class at any two periods — though undoubtedly this is one and perhaps the most important element in striking a balance — but we ought to compare all the members, high and low, at two periods. At an ancient epoch the highest and lowest molluscoidal animals, namely, cephalopods and brachiopods, swarmed in numbers; at the present time both groups are greatly reduced, while others, intermediate in organisation, have largely increased; consequently some naturalists maintain that molluscs were formerly more highly developed than at present; but a stronger case can be made out on the opposite side, by considering the vast reduction of brachiopods, and the fact that our existing cephalopods, though few in number, are more highly organised than their ancient representatives. We ought also to compare the relative proportional numbers, at any two periods, of the high and low classes throughout the world: if, for instance, at the present day fifty thousand kinds of vertebrate animals exist, and if we knew that at some former period only ten thousand kinds existed, we ought to look at this increase in number in the highest class, which implies a great displacement of lower forms, as a decided advance in the organisation of the world. We thus see how hopelessly difficult it is to compare with perfect fairness, under such extremely complex relations, the standard of organisation of the imperfectly-known faunas of successive periods.

We shall appreciate this difficulty more clearly by looking to certain existing faunas and floras. From the extraordinary manner in which European productions have recently spread over New Zealand, and have seized on places which must have been previously occupied by the indigenes, we must believe, that if all the animals and plants of Great Britain were set free in New Zealand, a multitude of British forms would in the course of time become thoroughly naturalized there, and would exterminate many of the natives. On the other hand, from the fact that hardly a single inhabitant of the southern hemisphere has become wild in any part of Europe, we may well doubt whether, if all the productions of New Zealand were set free in Great Britain, any considerable number would be enabled to seize on places now occupied by our native plants and animals. Under this point of view, the productions of Great Britain stand much higher in the scale than those of New Zealand. Yet the