Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection

1. LONGEVITY. (continued)

That many species have been evolved in an extremely gradual manner, there can hardly be a doubt. The species and even the genera of many large natural families are so closely allied together that it is difficult to distinguish not a few of them. On every continent, in proceeding from north to south, from lowland to upland, etc., we meet with a host of closely related or representative species; as we likewise do on certain distinct continents, which we have reason to believe were formerly connected. But in making these and the following remarks, I am compelled to allude to subjects hereafter to be discussed. Look at the many outlying islands round a continent, and see how many of their inhabitants can be raised only to the rank of doubtful species. So it is if we look to past times, and compare the species which have just passed away with those still living within the same areas; or if we compare the fossil species embedded in the sub-stages of the same geological formation. It is indeed manifest that multitudes of species are related in the closest manner to other species that still exist, or have lately existed; and it will hardly be maintained that such species have been developed in an abrupt or sudden manner. Nor should it be forgotten, when we look to the special parts of allied species, instead of to distinct species, that numerous and wonderfully fine gradations can be traced, connecting together widely different structures.

Many large groups of facts are intelligible only on the principle that species have been evolved by very small steps. For instance, the fact that the species included in the larger genera are more closely related to each other, and present a greater number of varieties than do the species in the smaller genera. The former are also grouped in little clusters, like varieties round species; and they present other analogies with varieties, as was shown in our second chapter. On this same principle we can understand how it is that specific characters are more variable than generic characters; and how the parts which are developed in an extraordinary degree or manner are more variable than other parts of the same species. Many analogous facts, all pointing in the same direction, could be added.

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