Yarrell 'Phil. Transact.' 1827 page 268; Dr. Hamilton in 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' 1862 page 23.) A duck ten years old has been known to assume both the perfect winter and summer plumage of the drake. (13/55. 'Archiv. Skand. Beitrage zur Naturgesch.' 8 s. 397-413.) Waterton (13/56. In his 'Essays on Nat. Hist.' 1838 Mr. Hewitt gives analogous cases with hen- pheasants in 'Journal of Horticulture' July 12, 1864 page 37. Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in his 'Essais de Zoolog. Gen.' ('Suites a Buffon' 1842 pages 496-513), has collected such cases in ten different kinds of birds. It appears that Aristotle was well aware of the change in mental disposition in old hens. The case of the female deer acquiring horns is given at page 513.) gives a curious case of a hen which had ceased laying, and had assumed the plumage, voice, spurs, and warlike disposition of the cock; when opposed to an enemy she would erect her hackles and show fight. Thus every character, even to the instinct and manner of fighting, must have lain dormant in this hen as long as her ovaria continued to act. The females of two kinds of deer, when old, have been known to acquire horns; and, as Hunter has remarked, we see something of an analogous nature in the human species.

On the other hand, with male animals, it is notorious that the secondary sexual characters are more or less completely lost when they are subjected to castration. Thus, if the operation be performed on a young cock, he never, as Yarrell states, crows again; the comb, wattles, and spurs do not grow to their full size, and the hackles assume an intermediate appearance between true hackles and the feathers of the hen. Cases are recorded of confinement, which often affects the reproductive system, causing analogous results. But characters properly confined to the female are likewise acquired by the male; the capon takes to sitting on eggs, and will bring up chickens; and what is more curious, the utterly sterile male hybrids from the pheasant and the fowl act in the same manner, "their delight being to watch when the hens leave their nests, and to take on themselves the office of a sitter." (13/57. 'Cottage Gardener' 1860 page 379.) That admirable observer Reaumur (13/58. 'Art de faire Eclore' etc. 1749 tome 2 page 8.) asserts that a cock, by being long confined in solitude and darkness, can be taught to take charge of young chickens; he then utters a peculiar cry, and retains during his whole life this newly acquired maternal instinct. The many well-ascertained cases of various male mammals giving milk shows that their rudimentary mammary glands retain this capacity in a latent condition.

We thus see that in many, probably in all cases, the secondary characters of each sex lie dormant or latent in the opposite sex, ready to be evolved under peculiar circumstances. We can thus understand how, for instance, it is possible for a good milking cow to transmit her good qualities through her male offspring to future generations; for we may confidently believe that these qualities are present, though latent, in the males of each generation. So it is with the game-cock, who can transmit his superiority in courage and vigour through his female to his male offspring; and with man it is known (13/59. Sir H. Holland 'Medical Notes and Reflections' 3rd edition 1855 page 31.) that diseases, such as hydrocele, necessarily confined to the male sex, can be transmitted through the female to the grandson. Such cases as these offer, as was remarked at the commencement of this chapter, the simplest possible examples of reversion; and they are intelligible on the belief that characters common to the grandparent and grandchild of the same sex are present, though latent, in the intermediate parent of the opposite sex.

The subject of latent characters is so important, as we shall see in a future chapter, that I will give another illustration. Many animals have the right and left sides of their body unequally developed: this is well known to be the case with flat-fish, in which the one side differs in thickness and colour and in the shape of the fins, from the other, and during the growth of the young fish one eye is gradually twisted from the lower to the upper surface.

The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication V2 Page 22

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Charles Darwin

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