CHAPTER IV. NATURAL SELECTION; OR THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.
8. THE PROBABLE EFFECTS OF THE ACTION OF NATURAL SELECTION THROUGH DIVERGENCE OF CHARACTER AND EXTINCTION, ON THE DESCENDANTS OF A COMMON ANCESTOR.
After the foregoing discussion, which has been much compressed, we may
assume that the modified descendants of any one species will succeed so
much the better as they become more diversified in structure, and are thus
enabled to encroach on places occupied by other beings. Now let us see how
this principle of benefit being derived from divergence of character,
combined with the principles of natural selection and of extinction, tends
The accompanying diagram will aid us in understanding this rather
perplexing subject. Let A to L represent the species of a genus large in
its own country; these species are supposed to resemble each other in
unequal degrees, as is so generally the case in nature, and as is
represented in the diagram by the letters standing at unequal distances. I
have said a large genus, because as we saw in the second chapter, on an
average more species vary in large genera than in small genera; and the
varying species of the large genera present a greater number of varieties.
We have, also, seen that the species, which are the commonest and most
widely-diffused, vary more than do the rare and restricted species. Let
(A) be a common, widely-diffused, and varying species, belonging to a genus
large in its own country. The branching and diverging dotted lines of
unequal lengths proceeding from (A), may represent its varying offspring.
The variations are supposed to be extremely slight, but of the most
diversified nature; they are not supposed all to appear simultaneously, but
often after long intervals of time; nor are they all supposed to endure for
equal periods. Only those variations which are in some way profitable will
be preserved or naturally selected. And here the importance of the
principle of benefit derived from divergence of character comes in; for
this will generally lead to the most different or divergent variations
(represented by the outer dotted lines) being preserved and accumulated by
natural selection. When a dotted line reaches one of the horizontal lines,
and is there marked by a small numbered letter, a sufficient amount of
variation is supposed to have been accumulated to form it into a fairly
well-marked variety, such as would be thought worthy of record in a