In some cases prepotency apparently depends on the same character being present and visible in one of the two breeds which are crossed, and latent or invisible in the other breed; and in this case it is natural that the character which is potentially present in both breeds should be prepotent. Thus, we have reason to believe that there is a latent tendency in all horses to be dun-coloured and striped; and when a horse of this kind is crossed with one of any other colour, it is said that the offspring are almost sure to be striped. Sheep have a similar latent tendency to become dark-coloured, and we have seen with what prepotent force a ram with a few black spots, when crossed with white sheep of various breeds, coloured its offspring. All pigeons have a latent tendency to become slaty-blue, with certain characteristic marks, and it is known that, when a bird thus coloured is crossed with one of any other colour, it is most difficult afterwards to eradicate the blue tint. A nearly parallel case is offered by those black bantams which, as they grow old, develop a latent tendency to acquire red feathers. But there are exceptions to the rule: hornless breeds of cattle possess a latent capacity to reproduce horns, yet when crossed with horned breeds they do not invariably produce offspring bearing horns.

We meet with analogous cases with plants. Striped flowers, though they can be propagated truly by seed, have a latent tendency to become uniformly coloured, but when once crossed by a uniformly coloured variety, they ever afterwards fail to produce striped seedlings. (14/22. Verlot 'Des Varietes' 1865 page 66.) Another case is in some respects more curious: plants bearing peloric flowers have so strong a latent tendency to reproduce their normally irregular flowers, that this often occurs by buds when a plant is transplanted into poorer or richer soil. (14/23. Moquin-Tandon 'Teratologie' page 191.) Now I crossed the peloric snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), described in the last chapter, with pollen of the common form; and the latter, reciprocally, with peloric pollen. I thus raised two great beds of seedlings, and not one was peloric. Naudin (14/24. 'Nouvelles Archives du Museum' tome 1 page 137.) obtained the same result from crossing a peloric Linaria with the common form. I carefully examined the flowers of ninety plants of the crossed Antirrhinum in the two beds, and their structure had not been in the least affected by the cross, except that in a few instances the minute rudiment of the fifth stamen, which is always present, was more fully or even completely developed. It must not be supposed that this entire obliteration of the peloric structure in the crossed plants can be accounted for by any incapacity of transmission; for I raised a large bed of plants from the peloric Antirrhinum, artificially fertilised by its own pollen, and sixteen plants, which alone survived the winter, were all as perfectly peloric as the parent-plant. Here we have a good instance of the wide difference between the inheritance of a character and the power of transmitting it to crossed offspring. The crossed plants, which perfectly resembled the common snapdragon, were allowed to sow themselves, and out of a hundred and twenty-seven seedlings, eighty-eight proved to be common snapdragons, two were in an intermediate condition between the peloric and normal state, and thirty-seven were perfectly peloric, having reverted to the structure of their one grand-parent. This case seems at first sight to offer an exception to the rule just given, namely, that a character which is present in one form and latent in the other is generally transmitted with prepotent force when the two forms are crossed. For in all the Scrophulariaceae, and especially in the genera Antirrhinum and Linaria, there is, as was shown in the last chapter, a strong latent tendency to become peloric; but there is also, as we have seen, a still stronger tendency in all peloric plants to reacquire their normal irregular structure.

The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication V2 Page 33

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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