The Origin of Species

By Charles Darwin; Gillian Beer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
VARIATION UNDER DOMESTICATION

Causes of Variability--Effects of Habit--Correlation of Growth--Inheritance--Character of Domestic Varieties-- Difficulty of distinguishing between Varieties and Species-- Origin of Domestic Varieties from one or more Species-- Domestic Pigeons, their Differences and Origin--Principle of Selection anciently followed, its Effects--Methodical and Unconscious Selection--Unknown Origin of our Domestic Productions--Circumstances favourable to Man's power of Selection.

WHEN we look to the individuals of the same variety or sub-variety of our older cultivated plants and animals, one of the first points which strikes us is, that they generally differ more from each other than do the individuals of any one species or variety in a state of nature. When we reflect on the vast diversity of the plants and animals which have been cultivated, and which have varied during all ages under the most different climates and treatment, I think we are driven to conclude that this great variability is simply due to our domestic productions having been raised under conditions of life not so uniform as, and somewhat different from, those to which the parent-species have been exposed under nature. There is also, I think, some probability in the view propounded by Andrew Knight, that this variability may be partly connected with excess of food. It seems pretty clear that organic beings must be exposed during several generations to the new conditions of life to cause any appreciable amount of variation; and that when the organisation has once begun to vary, it generally continues to vary for many generations. No case is on record of a variable being ceasing to be variable under cultivation. Our oldest cultivated plants, such as wheat, still often yield new varieties: our oldest domesticated animals are still capable of rapid improvement or modification.

It has been disputed at what period of life the causes of variability, whatever they may be, generally act; whether

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