The statement is also directly contradicted by Naudin's observations, and by the notorious fact that perfectly fertile mongrels exhibit the tendency in a high degree,--even in a higher degree, according to Gartner himself, than hybrids. (13/51. 'Bastarderzeugung' s. 582, 438, etc.)

Gartner further states that reversions rarely occur with hybrid plants raised from species which have not been cultivated, whilst, with those which have been long cultivated, they are of frequent occurrence. This conclusion explains a curious discrepancy: Max Wichura (13/52. 'Die Bastardbefruchtung... der Weiden' 1865 s. 23. For Gartner's remarks on this head, see 'Bastarderzeugung' s. 474, 582.) who worked exclusively on willows which had not been subjected to culture, never saw an instance of reversion; and he goes so far as to suspect that the careful Gartner had not sufficiently protected his hybrids from the pollen of the parent-species: Naudin, on the other hand, who chiefly experimented on cucurbitaceous and other cultivated plants, insists more strenuously than any other author on the tendency to reversion in all hybrids. The conclusion that the condition of the parent-species, as affected by culture, is one of the proximate causes leading to reversion, agrees well with the converse case of domesticated animals and cultivated plants being liable to reversion when they become feral; for in both cases the organisation or constitution must be disturbed, though in a very different way. (13/53. Prof. Weismann in his very curious essay on the different forms produced by the same species of butterfly at different seasons ('Saison- Dimorphismus der Schmetterlinge' pages 27, 28), has come to a similar conclusion, namely, that any cause which disturbs the organisation, such as the exposure of the cocoons to heat or even to much shaking, gives a tendency to reversion.)

Finally, we have seen that characters often reappear in purely-bred races without our being able to assign any proximate cause; but when they become feral this is either indirectly or directly induced by the change in their conditions of life. With crossed breeds, the act of crossing in itself certainly leads to the recovery of long-lost characters, as well as of those derived from either parent-form. Changed conditions, consequent on cultivation, and the relative position of buds, flowers, and seeds on the plant, all apparently aid in giving this same tendency. Reversion may occur either through seminal or bud generation, generally at birth, but sometimes only with an advance of age. Segments or portions of the individual may alone be thus affected. That a being should be born resembling in certain characters an ancestor removed by two or three, and in some cases by hundreds or even thousands of generations, is assuredly a wonderful fact. In these cases the child is commonly said to inherit such characters directly from its grandparent, or more remote ancestors. But this view is hardly conceivable. If, however, we suppose that every character is derived exclusively from the father or mother, but that many characters lie latent or dormant in both parents during a long succession of generations, the foregoing facts are intelligible. In what manner characters may be conceived to lie latent, will be considered in a future chapter to which I have lately alluded.


But I must explain what is meant by characters lying latent. The most obvious illustration is afforded by secondary sexual characters. In every female all the secondary male characters, and in every male all the secondary female characters, apparently exist in a latent state, ready to be evolved under certain conditions. It is well known that a large number of female birds, such as fowls, various pheasants, partridges, peahens, ducks, etc., when old or diseased, or when operated on, assume many or all of the secondary male characters of their species. In the case of the hen-pheasant this has been observed to occur far more frequently during certain years than during others. (13/54.

The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication V2 Page 21

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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