Page:Origin of Species 1872.djvu/401

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Mr. Waterhouse has remarked that when a member belonging to one group of animals exhibits an affinity to a quite distinct group, this affinity in most cases is general and not special: thus, according to Mr. Waterhouse, of all Rodents, the bizcacha is most nearly related to Marsupials; but in the points in which it approaches this order, its relations are general, that is, not to any one Marsupial species more than to another. As these points of affinity are believed to be real and not merely adaptive, they must be due in accordance with our view to inheritance from a common progenitor. Therefore, we must suppose either that all Rodents, including the bizcacha, branched off from some ancient Marsupial, which will naturally have been more or less intermediate in character with respect to all existing Marsupials; or that both Rodents and Marsupials branched off from a common progenitor, and that both groups have since undergone much modification in divergent directions. On either view we must suppose that the bizcacha has retained, by inheritance, more of the character of its ancient progenitor than have other Rodents; and therefore it will not be specially related to any one existing Marsupial, but indirectly to all or nearly all Marsupials, from having partially retained the character of their common progenitor, or of some early member of the group. On the other hand, of all Marsupials, as Mr. Waterhouse has remarked, the Phascolomys resembles most nearly, not any one species, but the general order of Rodents. In this case, however, it may be strongly suspected that the resemblance is only analogical, owing to the Phascolomys having become adapted to habits like those of a Rodent. The elder De Candolle has made nearly similar observations on the general nature of the affinities of distinct families of plants.

On the principle of the multiplication and gradual divergence in character of the species descended from a common progenitor, together with their retention by inheritance of some characters in common, we can understand the excessively complex and radiating affinities by which all the members of the same family or higher group are connected together. For the common progenitor of a whole family, now broken up by extinction into distinct groups and subgroups, will have transmitted some of its characters, modified in various ways and degrees, to all the species; and they will consequently be related to each other by circuitous lines of affinity of various lengths (as may be seen in the diagram so often referred to), mounting up through many predecessors. As it is difficult to show the blood-relationship between the numerous kindred of any ancient and noble family, even by the aid of a genealogical tree, and almost impossible to do so without this aid, we can understand the extraordinary