Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection


Let us now look to the mutual affinities of extinct and living species. All fall into a few grand classes; and this fact is at once explained on the principle of descent. The more ancient any form is, the more, as a general rule, it differs from living forms. But, as Buckland long ago remarked, extinct species can all be classed either in still existing groups, or between them. That the extinct forms of life help to fill up the intervals between existing genera, families, and orders, is certainly true; but as this statement has often been ignored or even denied, it may be well to make some remarks on this subject, and to give some instances. If we confine our attention either to the living or to the extinct species of the same class, the series is far less perfect than if we combine both into one general system. In the writings of Professor Owen we continually meet with the expression of generalised forms, as applied to extinct animals; and in the writings of Agassiz, of prophetic or synthetic types; and these terms imply that such forms are, in fact, intermediate or connecting links. Another distinguished palaeontologist, M. Gaudry, has shown in the most striking manner that many of the fossil mammals discovered by him in Attica serve to break down the intervals between existing genera. Cuvier ranked the Ruminants and Pachyderms as two of the most distinct orders of mammals; but so many fossil links have been disentombed that Owen has had to alter the whole classification, and has placed certain Pachyderms in the same sub-order with ruminants; for example, he dissolves by gradations the apparently wide interval between the pig and the camel. The Ungulata or hoofed quadrupeds are now divided into the even-toed or odd-toed divisions; but the Macrauchenia of South America connects to a certain extent these two grand divisions. No one will deny that the Hipparion is intermediate between the existing horse and certain other ungulate forms. What a wonderful connecting link in the chain of mammals is the Typotherium from South America, as the name given to it by Professor Gervais expresses, and which cannot be placed in any existing order. The Sirenia form a very distinct group of the mammals, and one of the most remarkable peculiarities in existing dugong and lamentin is the entire absence of hind limbs, without even a rudiment being left; but the extinct Halitherium had, according to Professor Flower, an ossified thigh-bone "articulated to a well-defined acetabulum in the pelvis," and it thus makes some approach to ordinary hoofed quadrupeds, to which the Sirenia are in other respects allied. The cetaceans or whales are widely different from all other mammals, but the tertiary Zeuglodon and Squalodon, which have been placed by some naturalists in an order by themselves, are considered by Professor Huxley to be undoubtedly cetaceans, "and to constitute connecting links with the aquatic carnivora."

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