Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/579

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575
AGE, DEATH AND CONJUGATION

(2) But, secondly, fertilization brings about in some way inheritance from two parents. When there is inheritance from but one parent, the inheritance is as it were complete; the child as a rule resembles its parent in all hereditary characteristics; this is the result of the so-called "pure line" work. But when we have biparental inheritance, a great number of different combinations of the characteristics of the two parents are produced, so that the process of fertilization is one that in this respect completely alters the face of organic nature, producing infinite variety in place of relative uniformity.

These two functions of fertilization, the initiation of development, on the one hand, the production of inheritance from two parents, on the other, are logically independent; they might conceivably be performed at different times and by different mechanisms. The fact that in many organisms the same mechanism that brings about biparental inheritance is likewise the one that initiates development might from certain points of view be called an adaptation. Its result is to insure that in all the organisms that develop there shall be inheritance from two parents, not from one. In the work on artificial parthenogenesis these two functions have been separated experimentally; the initiation of development takes place alone.

Now, in endeavoring to understand conjugation, attention has been given hitherto almost exclusively to the first of these two functions. It was held that the function of conjugation must be to make possible life and development where it was otherwise impossible, just as fertilization arouses the egg to further life and development. But it turns out that conjugation, instead of having this one of the two functions of fertilization, has the other. The two functions are in the infusorian separated, just as they are in artificial parthenogenesis, but it is the second, not the first, that we have before us. Conjugation is not necessary in order that life and reproduction shall continue; they continue without it.

But the life which thus continues is uniform and unchanging. To give biparental inheritance, with varying mixtures of the characteristics of the two parents; to produce these new combinations in great variety, conjugation is necessary. And when this happens under such conditions that the original combinations were not adapted to survival, then some of the new combinations produced often are adapted to the conditions; conjugation then results in a survival of an organism that would have been completely destroyed without it. It is most interesting in this connection to observe that conjugation is usually induced by an unfavorable change of conditions, a change of such a nature that the organisms begin to decline. Thereupon conjugation occurs, so that new combinations are produced, adapted to varied conditions, some of which may survive.

Thus it appears to me that the whole series of investigations on old