A return, also, of domesticated animals and cultivated plants to a wild state favours reversion; but the tendency under these circumstances has been much exaggerated.
When individuals of the same family which differ somewhat, and when races or species are crossed, the one is often prepotent over the other in transmitting its character. A race may possess a strong power of inheritance, and yet when crossed, as we have seen with trumpeter-pigeons, yield to the prepotency of every other race. Prepotency of transmission may be equal in the two sexes of the same species, but often runs more strongly in one sex. It plays an important part in determining the rate at which one race can be modified or wholly absorbed by repeated crosses with another. We can seldom tell what makes one race or species prepotent over another; but it sometimes depends on the same character being present and visible in one parent, and latent or potentially present in the other.
Characters may first appear in either sex, but oftener in the male than in the female, and afterwards be transmitted to the offspring of the same sex. In this case we may feel confident that the peculiarity in question is really present though latent in the opposite sex! hence the father may transmit through his daughter any character to his grandson; and the mother conversely to her granddaughter. We thus learn, and the fact is an important one, that transmission and development are distinct powers. Occasionally these two powers seem to be antagonistic, or incapable of combination in the same individual; for several cases have been recorded in which the son has not directly inherited a character from his father, or directly transmitted it to his son, but has received it by transmission through his non-affected mother, and transmitted it through his non-affected daughter. Owing to inheritance being limited by sex, we see how secondary sexual characters may have arisen under nature; their preservation and accumulation being dependent on their service to either sex.
At whatever period of life a new character first appears, it generally remains latent in the offspring until a corresponding age is attained, and then is developed. When this rule fails, the child generally exhibits the character at an earlier period than the parent. On this principle of inheritance at corresponding periods, we can understand how it is that most animals display from the germ to maturity such a marvellous succession of characters.
Finally, though much remains obscure with respect to Inheritance, we may look at the following laws as fairly well established.
FIRSTLY, a tendency in every character, new and old, to be transmitted by seminal and bud generation, though often counteracted by various known and unknown causes.
SECONDLY, reversion or atavism, which depends on transmission and development being distinct powers: it acts in various degrees and manners through both seminal and bud generation.
THIRDLY, prepotency of transmission, which may be confined to one sex, or be common to both sexes.
FOURTHLY, transmission, as limited by sex, generally to the same sex in which the inherited character first appeared; and this in many, probably most cases, depends on the new character having first appeared at a rather late period of life.
FIFTHLY, inheritance at corresponding periods of life, with some tendency to the earlier development of the inherited character.
In these laws of Inheritance, as displayed under domestication, we see an ample provision for the production, through variability and natural selection, of new specific forms.
FREE INTERCROSSING OBLITERATES THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ALLIED BREEDS. WHEN THE NUMBERS OF TWO COMMINGLING BREEDS ARE UNEQUAL, ONE ABSORBS THE OTHER. THE RATE OF ABSORPTION DETERMINED BY PREPOTENCY OF TRANSMISSION, BY THE CONDITIONS OF LIFE, AND BY NATURAL SELECTION. ALL ORGANIC BEINGS OCCASIONALLY INTERCROSS; APPARENT EXCEPTIONS. ON CERTAIN CHARACTERS INCAPABLE OF FUSION; CHIEFLY OR EXCLUSIVELY THOSE WHICH HAVE SUDDENLY APPEARED IN THE INDIVIDUAL. ON THE MODIFICATION OF OLD RACES, AND THE FORMATION OF NEW RACES BY CROSSING. SOME CROSSED RACES HAVE BRED TRUE FROM THEIR FIRST PRODUCTION. ON THE CROSSING OF DISTINCT SPECIES IN RELATION TO THE FORMATION OF DOMESTIC RACES.