These facts and statements, though some of them are incapable of proof, resting only on the opinion of experienced observers, show that some domestic races are led by different habits of life to keep to a certain extent separate, and that others prefer coupling with their own kind, in the same manner as species in a state of nature, though in a much less degree.

[With respect to sterility from the crossing of domestic races, I know of no well-ascertained case with animals. This fact, seeing the great difference in structure between some breeds of pigeons, fowls, pigs, dogs, etc., is extraordinary, in contrast with the sterility of many closely allied natural species when crossed; but we shall hereafter attempt to show that it is not so extraordinary as it at first appears. And it may be well here to recall to mind that the amount of external difference between two species is not a safe guide for predicting whether or not they will breed together,--some closely allied species when crossed being utterly sterile, and others which are extremely unlike being moderately fertile. I have said that no case of sterility in crossed races rests on satisfactory evidence; but here is one which at first seems trustworthy. Mr. Youatt (16/9. 'Cattle' page 202.) and a better authority cannot be quoted, states, that formerly in Lancashire crosses were frequently made between longhorn and shorthorn cattle; the first cross was excellent, but the produce was uncertain; in the third or fourth generation the cows were bad milkers; "in addition to which, there was much uncertainty whether the cows would conceive; and full one-third of the cows among some of these half-breds failed to be in calf." This at first seems a good case: but Mr. Wilkinson states (16/10. Mr. J. Wilkinson in 'Remarks addressed to Sir J. Sebright' 1820 page 38.), that a breed derived from this same cross was actually established in another part of England; and if it had failed in fertility, the fact would surely have been noticed. Moreover, supposing that Mr. Youatt had proved his case, it might be argued that the sterility was wholly due to the two parent-breeds being descended from primordially distinct species.

In the case of plants Gartner states that he fertilised thirteen heads (and subsequently nine others) on a dwarf maize bearing yellow seed (16/11. 'Bastarderzeugung' s. 87, 169. See also the Table at the end of volume.) with pollen of a tall maize having red seed; and one head alone produced good seed, but only five in number. Though these plants are monoecious, and therefore do not require castration, yet I should have suspected some accident in the manipulation, had not Gartner expressly stated that he had during many years grown these two varieties together, and they did not spontaneously cross; and this, considering that the plants are monoecious and abound with pollen, and are well known generally to cross freely, seems explicable only on the belief that these two varieties are in some degree mutually infertile. The hybrid plants raised from the above five seeds were intermediate in structure, extremely variable, and perfectly fertile. (16/12. 'Bastarderzeugung' s. 87, 577.) In like manner Prof. Hildebrand (16/13. 'Bot. Zeitung' 1868 page 327.) could not succeed in fertilising the female flowers of a plant bearing brown grains with pollen from a certain kind bearing yellow grains; although other flowers on the same plant, which were fertilised with their own pollen, yielded good seed. No one, I believe, even suspects that these varieties of maize are distinct species; but had the hybrids been in the least sterile, no doubt Gartner would at once have so classed them. I may here remark, that with undoubted species there is not necessarily any close relation between the sterility of a first cross and that of the hybrid offspring. Some species can be crossed with facility, but produce utterly sterile hybrids; others can be crossed with extreme difficulty, but the hybrids when produced are moderately fertile.

The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication V2 Page 54

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book