But it long remained to me an inexplicable problem how the necessary degree of modification could have been effected, and it would have thus remained for ever, had I not studied domestic productions, and thus acquired a just idea of the power of Selection. As soon as I had fully realised this idea, I saw, on reading Malthus on Population, that Natural Selection was the inevitable result of the rapid increase of all organic beings; for I was prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence by having long studied the habits of animals.
Before visiting the Galapagos I had collected many animals whilst travelling from north to south on both sides of America, and everywhere, under conditions of life as different as it is possible to conceive, American forms were met with--species replacing species of the same peculiar genera. Thus it was when the Cordilleras were ascended, or the thick tropical forests penetrated, or the fresh waters of America searched. Subsequently I visited other countries, which in all their conditions of life were incomparably more like parts of South America, than the different parts of that continent are to each other; yet in these countries, as in Australia or Southern Africa, the traveller cannot fail to be struck with the entire difference of their productions. Again the reflection was forced on me that community of descent from the early inhabitants of South America would alone explain the wide prevalence of American types throughout that immense area.
To exhume with one's own hands the bones of extinct and gigantic quadrupeds brings the whole question of the succession of species vividly before one's mind; and I found in South America great pieces of tesselated armour exactly like, but on a magnificent scale, that covering the pigmy armadillo; I had found great teeth like those of the living sloth, and bones like those of the cavy. An analogous succession of allied forms had been previously observed in Australia. Here then we see the prevalence, as if by descent, in time as in space, of the same types in the same areas; and in neither the case does the similarity of the conditions by any means seem sufficient to account for the similarity of the forms of life. It is notorious that the fossil remains of closely consecutive formations are closely allied in structure, and we can at once understand the fact if they are closely allied by descent. The succession of the many distinct species of the same genus throughout the long series of geological formations seems to have been unbroken or continuous. New species come in gradually one by one. Ancient and extinct forms of life are often intermediate in character, like the words of a dead language with respect to its several offshoots or living tongues. All these facts seemed to me to point to descent with modification as the means of production of new species.
The innumerable past and present inhabitants of the world are connected together by the most singular and complex affinities, and can be classed in groups under groups, in the same manner as varieties can be classed under species and sub-varieties under varieties, but with much higher grades of difference. These complex affinities and the rules for classification, receive a rational explanation on the theory of descent, combined with the principle of natural selection, which entails divergence of character and the extinction of intermediate forms. How inexplicable is the similar pattern of the hand of a man, the foot of a dog, the wing of a bat, the flipper of a seal, on the doctrine of independent acts of creation! how simply explained on the principle of the natural selection of successive slight variations in the diverging descendants from a single progenitor! So it is with certain parts or organs in the same individual animal or plant, for instance, the jaws and legs of a crab, or the petals, stamens, and pistils of a flower. During the many changes to which in the course of time organic beings have been subjected, certain organs or parts have occasionally become at first of little use and ultimately superfluous; and the retention of such parts in a rudimentary and useless condition is intelligible on the theory of descent.