Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/830

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tion will increase any advantageous trait. Certainly a view now widely accepted assumes as much.

The consideration of this view, to which the foregoing paragraph is introductory, may now be entered upon. This view concerns, not direct selection, but what has been called, in questionable logic, "reversed selection"—the selection which effects, not increase of an organ, but decrease of it. For as, under some conditions, it is of advantage to an individual and its descendants to have some structure of larger size, it may be, under other conditions—namely, when the organ becomes useless—of advantage to have it of smaller size; since, even if it is not in the way, its weight and the cost of its nutrition are injurious taxes on the organism. But now comes the truth to be emphasized. Just as direct selection can increase an organ only in certain cases, so can reversed selection decrease it only in certain eases. Like the increase produced by a variation, the decrease produced by one must be such as will sensibly conduce to preservation and multiplication. It is, for instance, conceivable that were the long and massive tail of the kangaroo to become useless (say by the forcing of the species into a mountainous and rocky habitat filled with brushwood), a variation which considerably reduced the tail might sensibly profit the individual in which it occurred; and, in seasons when food was scarce, might cause survival when individuals with large tails died. But the economy of nutrition must be considerable before any such result could occur. Suppose that in this new habitat the kangaroo had no enemies; and suppose that, consequently, quickness of hearing not being called for, large ears gave no greater advantage than small ones. Would an individual with smaller ears than usual survive and propagate better than other individuals in consequence of the economy of nutrition achieved? To suppose this is to suppose that the saving of a grain or two of protein per day would determine the kangaroo's fate.

Long ago I discussed this matter in the Principles of Biology (§ 166), taking as an instance the decrease of the jaw implied by the crowding of the teeth, and now proved by measurement to have taken place. Here is the passage:—

"No functional superiority possessed by a small jaw over a large jaw, in civilized life, can be named as having caused the more frequent survival of small-jawed individuals. The only advantage which smallness of jaw might be supposed to give, is the advantage of economized nutrition; and this could not be great enough to further the preservation of men possessing it. The decrease of weight in the jaw and co-operative parts that has arisen in the course of many thousands of years, does not amount to more than a few ounces. This decrease has to be divided among the many generations that have lived and died in the interval. Let us admit that the weight of these parts diminished to the extent of