Page:Origin of Species 1872.djvu/410

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birds, lizards and snakes, probably also of chelonia, are in the earliest states exceedingly like one another, both as a whole and in the mode of development of their parts; so much so, in fact, that we can often distinguish the embryos only by their size. In my possession are two little embryos in spirit, whose names I have omitted to attach, and at present I am quite unable to say to what class they belong. They may be lizards or small birds, or very young mammalia, so complete is the similarity in the mode of formation of the head and trunk in these animals. The extremities, however, are still absent in these embryos. But even if they had existed in the earliest stage of their development we should learn nothing, for the feet of lizards and mammals, the wings and feet of birds, no less than the hands and feet of man, all arise from the same fundamental form." The larvæ of most crustaceans, at corresponding stages of development, closely resemble each other, however different the adults may become; and so it is with very many other animals. A trace of the law of embryonic resemblance occasionally lasts till a rather late age: thus birds of the same genus, and of allied genera, often resemble each other in their immature plumage; as we see in the spotted feathers in the young of the thrush group. In the cat tribe, most of the species when adult are striped or spotted in lines; and stripes or spots can be plainly distinguished in the whelp of the lion and the puma. We occasionally, though rarely, see something of the same kind in plants; thus the first leaves of the ulex or furze, and the first leaves of the phyllodineous acacias, are pinnate or divided like the ordinary leaves of the leguminosæ.

The points of structure, in which the embryos of widely different animals within the same class resemble each other, often have no direct relation to their conditions of existence. We cannot, for instance, suppose that in the embryos of the vertebrata the peculiar loop-like courses of the arteries near the branchial slits are related to similar conditions — in the young mammal which is nourished in the womb of its mother, in the egg of the bird which is hatched in a nest, and in the spawn of a frog under water. We have no more reason to believe in such a relation than we have to believe that the similar bones in the hand of a man, wing of a bat, and fin of a porpoise, are related to similar conditions of life. No one supposes that the stripes on the whelp of a lion, or the spots on the young blackbird, are of any use to these animals.

The case, however, is different when an animal, during any part of its embryonic career, is active, and has to provide for itself. The period of activity may come on earlier or later in life; but whenever