CHAPTER VIII. INSTINCT.
1. INSTINCTS COMPARABLE WITH HABITS, BUT DIFFERENT IN THEIR ORIGIN. (continued)
Again, as in the case of corporeal structure, and conformably to my theory,
the instinct of each species is good for itself, but has never, as far as
we can judge, been produced for the exclusive good of others. One of the
strongest instances of an animal apparently performing an action for the
sole good of another, with which I am acquainted, is that of aphides
voluntarily yielding, as was first observed by Huber, their sweet excretion
to ants: that they do so voluntarily, the following facts show. I removed
all the ants from a group of about a dozen aphides on a dock-plant, and
prevented their attendance during several hours. After this interval, I
felt sure that the aphides would want to excrete. I watched them for some
time through a lens, but not one excreted; I then tickled and stroked them
with a hair in the same manner, as well as I could, as the ants do with
their antennae; but not one excreted. Afterwards, I allowed an ant to
visit them, and it immediately seemed, by its eager way of running about to
be well aware what a rich flock it had discovered; it then began to play
with its antennae on the abdomen first of one aphis and then of another;
and each, as soon as it felt the antennae, immediately lifted up its
abdomen and excreted a limpid drop of sweet juice, which was eagerly
devoured by the ant. Even the quite young aphides behaved in this manner,
showing that the action was instinctive, and not the result of experience.
It is certain, from the observations of Huber, that the aphides show no
dislike to the ants: if the latter be not present they are at last
compelled to eject their excretion. But as the excretion is extremely
viscid, it is no doubt a convenience to the aphides to have it removed;
therefore probably they do not excrete solely for the good of the ants.
Although there is no evidence that any animal performs an action for the
exclusive good of another species, yet each tries to take advantage of the
instincts of others, as each takes advantage of the weaker bodily structure
of other species. So again certain instincts cannot be considered as
absolutely perfect; but as details on this and other such points are not
indispensable, they may be here passed over.