On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection
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Huber's statement that the very first cell is excavated out of a little parallel-sided wall of wax, is not, as far as I have seen, strictly correct; the first commencement having always been a little hood of wax; but I will not here enter on these details. We see how important a part excavation plays in the construction of the cells; but it would be a great error to suppose that the bees cannot build up a rough wall of wax in the proper position--that is, along the plane of intersection between two adjoining spheres. I have several specimens showing clearly that they can do this. Even in the rude circumferential rim or wall of wax round a growing comb, flexures may sometimes be observed, corresponding in position to the planes of the rhombic basal plates of future cells. But the rough wall of wax has in every case to be finished off, by being largely gnawed away on both sides. The manner in which the bees build is curious; they always make the first rough wall from ten to twenty times thicker than the excessively thin finished wall of the cell, which will ultimately be left. We shall understand how they work, by supposing masons first to pile up a broad ridge of cement, and then to begin cutting it away equally on both sides near the ground, till a smooth, very thin wall is left in the middle; the masons always piling up the cut-away cement, and adding fresh cement, on the summit of the ridge. We shall thus have a thin wall steadily growing upward; but always crowned by a gigantic coping. From all the cells, both those just commenced and those completed, being thus crowned by a strong coping of wax, the bees can cluster and crawl over the comb without injuring the delicate hexagonal walls, which are only about one four-hundredth of an inch in thickness; the plates of the pyramidal basis being about twice as thick. By this singular manner of building, strength is continually given to the comb, with the utmost ultimate economy of wax.

It seems at first to add to the difficulty of understanding how the cells are made, that a multitude of bees all work together; one bee after working a short time at one cell going to another, so that, as Huber has stated, a score of individuals work even at the commencement of the first cell. I was able practically to show this fact, by covering the edges of the hexagonal walls of a single cell, or the extreme margin of the circumferential rim of a growing comb, with an extremely thin layer of melted vermilion wax; and I invariably found that the colour was most delicately diffused by the bees--as delicately as a painter could have done with his brush--by atoms of the coloured wax having been taken from the spot on which it had been placed, and worked into the growing edges of the cells all round. The work of construction seems to be a sort of balance struck between many bees, all instinctively standing at the same relative distance from each other, all trying to sweep equal spheres, and then building up, or leaving ungnawed, the planes of intersection between these spheres. It was really curious to note in cases of difficulty, as when two pieces of comb met at an angle, how often the bees would entirely pull down and rebuild in different ways the same cell, sometimes recurring to a shape which they had at first rejected.

When bees have a place on which they can stand in their proper positions for working,--for instance, on a slip of wood, placed directly under the middle of a comb growing downwards so that the comb has to be built over one face of the slip--in this case the bees can lay the foundations of one wall of a new hexagon, in its strictly proper place, projecting beyond the other completed cells. It suffices that the bees should be enabled to stand at their proper relative distances from each other and from the walls of the last completed cells, and then, by striking imaginary spheres, they can build up a wall intermediate between two adjoining spheres; but, as far as I have seen, they never gnaw away and finish off the angles of a cell till a large part both of that cell and of the adjoining cells has been built. This capacity in bees of laying down under certain circumstances a rough wall in its proper place between two just-commenced cells, is important, as it bears on a fact, which seems at first quite subversive of the foregoing theory; namely, that the cells on the extreme margin of wasp-combs are sometimes strictly hexagonal; but I have not space here to enter on this subject. Nor does there seem to me any great difficulty in a single insect (as in the case of a queen-wasp) making hexagonal cells, if she work alternately on the inside and outside of two or three cells commenced at the same time, always standing at the proper relative distance from the parts of the cells just begun, sweeping spheres or cylinders, and building up intermediate planes. It is even conceivable that an insect might, by fixing on a point at which to commence a cell, and then moving outside, first to one point, and then to five other points, at the proper relative distances from the central point and from each other, strike the planes of intersection, and so make an isolated hexagon: but I am not aware that any such case has been observed; nor would any good be derived from a single hexagon being built, as in its construction more materials would be required than for a cylinder.

As natural selection acts only by the accumulation of slight modifications of structure or instinct, each profitable to the individual under its conditions of life, it may reasonably be asked, how a long and graduated succession of modified architectural instincts, all tending towards the present perfect plan of construction, could have profited the progenitors of the hive-bee? I think the answer is not difficult: it is known that bees are often hard pressed to get sufficient nectar; and I am informed by Mr. Tegetmeier that it has been experimentally found that no less than from twelve to fifteen pounds of dry sugar are consumed by a hive of bees for the secretion of each pound of wax; so that a prodigious quantity of fluid nectar must be collected and consumed by the bees in a hive for the secretion of the wax necessary for the construction of their combs. Moreover, many bees have to remain idle for many days during the process of secretion. A large store of honey is indispensable to support a large stock of bees during the winter; and the security of the hive is known mainly to depend on a large number of bees being supported. Hence the saving of wax by largely saving honey must be a most important element of success in any family of bees. Of course the success of any species of bee may be dependent on the number of its parasites or other enemies, or on quite distinct causes, and so be altogether independent of the quantity of honey which the bees could collect. But let us suppose that this latter circumstance determined, as it probably often does determine, the numbers of a humble-bee which could exist in a country; and let us further suppose that the community lived throughout the winter, and consequently required a store of honey: there can in this case be no doubt that it would be an advantage to our humble-bee, if a slight modification of her instinct led her to make her waxen cells near together, so as to intersect a little; for a wall in common even to two adjoining cells, would save some little wax. Hence it would continually be more and more advantageous to our humble-bee, if she were to make her cells more and more regular, nearer together, and aggregated into a mass, like the cells of the Melipona; for in this case a large part of the bounding surface of each cell would serve to bound other cells, and much wax would be saved. Again, from the same cause, it would be advantageous to the Melipona, if she were to make her cells closer together, and more regular in every way than at present; for then, as we have seen, the spherical surfaces would wholly disappear, and would all be replaced by plane surfaces; and the Melipona would make a comb as perfect as that of the hive-bee. Beyond this stage of perfection in architecture, natural selection could not lead; for the comb of the hive-bee, as far as we can see, is absolutely perfect in economising wax.

Thus, as I believe, the most wonderful of all known instincts, that of the hive-bee, can be explained by natural selection having taken advantage of numerous, successive, slight modifications of simpler instincts; natural selection having by slow degrees, more and more perfectly, led the bees to sweep equal spheres at a given distance from each other in a double layer, and to build up and excavate the wax along the planes of intersection. The bees, of course, no more knowing that they swept their spheres at one particular distance from each other, than they know what are the several angles of the hexagonal prisms and of the basal rhombic plates. The motive power of the process of natural selection having been economy of wax; that individual swarm which wasted least honey in the secretion of wax, having succeeded best, and having transmitted by inheritance its newly acquired economical instinct to new swarms, which in their turn will have had the best chance of succeeding in the struggle for existence.

No doubt many instincts of very difficult explanation could be opposed to the theory of natural selection,--cases, in which we cannot see how an instinct could possibly have originated; cases, in which no intermediate gradations are known to exist; cases of instinct of apparently such trifling importance, that they could hardly have been acted on by natural selection; cases of instincts almost identically the same in animals so remote in the scale of nature, that we cannot account for their similarity by inheritance from a common parent, and must therefore believe that they have been acquired by independent acts of natural selection. I will not here enter on these several cases, but will confine myself to one special difficulty, which at first appeared to me insuperable, and actually fatal to my whole theory. I allude to the neuters or sterile females in insect-communities: for these neuters often differ widely in instinct and in structure from both the males and fertile females, and yet, from being sterile, they cannot propagate their kind.

The subject well deserves to be discussed at great length, but I will here take only a single case, that of working or sterile ants. How the workers have been rendered sterile is a difficulty; but not much greater than that of any other striking modification of structure; for it can be shown that some insects and other articulate animals in a state of nature occasionally become sterile; and if such insects had been social, and it had been profitable to the community that a number should have been annually born capable of work, but incapable of procreation, I can see no very great difficulty in this being effected by natural selection. But I must pass over this preliminary difficulty. The great difficulty lies in the working ants differing widely from both the males and the fertile females in structure, as in the shape of the thorax and in being destitute of wings and sometimes of eyes, and in instinct. As far as instinct alone is concerned, the prodigious difference in this respect between the workers and the perfect females, would have been far better exemplified by the hive-bee. If a working ant or other neuter insect had been an animal in the ordinary state, I should have unhesitatingly assumed that all its characters had been slowly acquired through natural selection; namely, by an individual having been born with some slight profitable modification of structure, this being inherited by its offspring, which again varied and were again selected, and so onwards. But with the working ant we have an insect differing greatly from its parents, yet absolutely sterile; so that it could never have transmitted successively acquired modifications of structure or instinct to its progeny. It may well be asked how is it possible to reconcile this case with the theory of natural selection?

First, let it be remembered that we have innumerable instances, both in our domestic productions and in those in a state of nature, of all sorts of differences of structure which have become correlated to certain ages, and to either sex. We have differences correlated not only to one sex, but to that short period alone when the reproductive system is active, as in the nuptial plumage of many birds, and in the hooked jaws of the male salmon. We have even slight differences in the horns of different breeds of cattle in relation to an artificially imperfect state of the male sex; for oxen of certain breeds have longer horns than in other breeds, in comparison with the horns of the bulls or cows of these same breeds. Hence I can see no real difficulty in any character having become correlated with the sterile condition of certain members of insect-communities: the difficulty lies in understanding how such correlated modifications of structure could have been slowly accumulated by natural selection.

This difficulty, though appearing insuperable, is lessened, or, as I believe, disappears, when it is remembered that selection may be applied to the family, as well as to the individual, and may thus gain the desired end. Thus, a well-flavoured vegetable is cooked, and the individual is destroyed; but the horticulturist sows seeds of the same stock, and confidently expects to get nearly the same variety; breeders of cattle wish the flesh and fat to be well marbled together; the animal has been slaughtered, but the breeder goes with confidence to the same family. I have such faith in the powers of selection, that I do not doubt that a breed of cattle, always yielding oxen with extraordinarily long horns, could be slowly formed by carefully watching which individual bulls and cows, when matched, produced oxen with the longest horns; and yet no one ox could ever have propagated its kind. Thus I believe it has been with social insects: a slight modification of structure, or instinct, correlated with the sterile condition of certain members of the community, has been advantageous to the community: consequently the fertile males and females of the same community flourished, and transmitted to their fertile offspring a tendency to produce sterile members having the same modification. And I believe that this process has been repeated, until that prodigious amount of difference between the fertile and sterile females of the same species has been produced, which we see in many social insects.

But we have not as yet touched on the climax of the difficulty; namely, the fact that the neuters of several ants differ, not only from the fertile females and males, but from each other, sometimes to an almost incredible degree, and are thus divided into two or even three castes. The castes, moreover, do not generally graduate into each other, but are perfectly well defined; being as distinct from each other, as are any two species of the same genus, or rather as any two genera of the same family. Thus in Eciton, there are working and soldier neuters, with jaws and instincts extraordinarily different: in Cryptocerus, the workers of one caste alone carry a wonderful sort of shield on their heads, the use of which is quite unknown: in the Mexican Myrmecocystus, the workers of one caste never leave the nest; they are fed by the workers of another caste, and they have an enormously developed abdomen which secretes a sort of honey, supplying the place of that excreted by the aphides, or the domestic cattle as they may be called, which our European ants guard or imprison.

It will indeed be thought that I have an overweening confidence in the principle of natural selection, when I do not admit that such wonderful and well-established facts at once annihilate my theory. In the simpler case of neuter insects all of one caste or of the same kind, which have been rendered by natural selection, as I believe to be quite possible, different from the fertile males and females,--in this case, we may safely conclude from the analogy of ordinary variations, that each successive, slight, profitable modification did not probably at first appear in all the individual neuters in the same nest, but in a few alone; and that by the long-continued selection of the fertile parents which produced most neuters with the profitable modification, all the neuters ultimately came to have the desired character. On this view we ought occasionally to find neuter-insects of the same species, in the same nest, presenting gradations of structure; and this we do find, even often, considering how few neuter-insects out of Europe have been carefully examined. Mr. F. Smith has shown how surprisingly the neuters of several British ants differ from each other in size and sometimes in colour; and that the extreme forms can sometimes be perfectly linked together by individuals taken out of the same nest: I have myself compared perfect gradations of this kind. It often happens that the larger or the smaller sized workers are the most numerous; or that both large and small are numerous, with those of an intermediate size scanty in numbers. Formica flava has larger and smaller workers, with some of intermediate size; and, in this species, as Mr. F. Smith has observed, the larger workers have simple eyes (ocelli), which though small can be plainly distinguished, whereas the smaller workers have their ocelli rudimentary. Having carefully dissected several specimens of these workers, I can affirm that the eyes are far more rudimentary in the smaller workers than can be accounted for merely by their proportionally lesser size; and I fully believe, though I dare not assert so positively, that the workers of intermediate size have their ocelli in an exactly intermediate condition. So that we here have two bodies of sterile workers in the same nest, differing not only in size, but in their organs of vision, yet connected by some few members in an intermediate condition. I may digress by adding, that if the smaller workers had been the most useful to the community, and those males and females had been continually selected, which produced more and more of the smaller workers, until all the workers had come to be in this condition; we should then have had a species of ant with neuters very nearly in the same condition with those of Myrmica. For the workers of Myrmica have not even rudiments of ocelli, though the male and female ants of this genus have well-developed ocelli.

I may give one other case: so confidently did I expect to find gradations in important points of structure between the different castes of neuters in the same species, that I gladly availed myself of Mr. F. Smith's offer of numerous specimens from the same nest of the driver ant (Anomma) of West Africa. The reader will perhaps best appreciate the amount of difference in these workers, by my giving not the actual measurements, but a strictly accurate illustration: the difference was the same as if we were to see a set of workmen building a house of whom many were five feet four inches high, and many sixteen feet high; but we must suppose that the larger workmen had heads four instead of three times as big as those of the smaller men, and jaws nearly five times as big. The jaws, moreover, of the working ants of the several sizes differed wonderfully in shape, and in the form and number of the teeth. But the important fact for us is, that though the workers can be grouped into castes of different sizes, yet they graduate insensibly into each other, as does the widely-different structure of their jaws. I speak confidently on this latter point, as Mr. Lubbock made drawings for me with the camera lucida of the jaws which I had dissected from the workers of the several sizes.

With these facts before me, I believe that natural selection, by acting on the fertile parents, could form a species which should regularly produce neuters, either all of large size with one form of jaw, or all of small size with jaws having a widely different structure; or lastly, and this is our climax of difficulty, one set of workers of one size and structure, and simultaneously another set of workers of a different size and structure;--a graduated series having been first formed, as in the case of the driver ant, and then the extreme forms, from being the most useful to the community, having been produced in greater and greater numbers through the natural selection of the parents which generated them; until none with an intermediate structure were produced.

Thus, as I believe, the wonderful fact of two distinctly defined castes of sterile workers existing in the same nest, both widely different from each other and from their parents, has originated. We can see how useful their production may have been to a social community of insects, on the same principle that the division of labour is useful to civilised man. As ants work by inherited instincts and by inherited tools or weapons, and not by acquired knowledge and manufactured instruments, a perfect division of labour could be effected with them only by the workers being sterile; for had they been fertile, they would have intercrossed, and their instincts and structure would have become blended. And nature has, as I believe, effected this admirable division of labour in the communities of ants, by the means of natural selection. But I am bound to confess, that, with all my faith in this principle, I should never have anticipated that natural selection could have been efficient in so high a degree, had not the case of these neuter insects convinced me of the fact. I have, therefore, discussed this case, at some little but wholly insufficient length, in order to show the power of natural selection, and likewise because this is by far the most serious special difficulty, which my theory has encountered. The case, also, is very interesting, as it proves that with animals, as with plants, any amount of modification in structure can be effected by the accumulation of numerous, slight, and as we must call them accidental, variations, which are in any manner profitable, without exercise or habit having come into play. For no amount of exercise, or habit, or volition, in the utterly sterile members of a community could possibly have affected the structure or instincts of the fertile members, which alone leave descendants. I am surprised that no one has advanced this demonstrative case of neuter insects, against the well-known doctrine of Lamarck.

Summary. -- I have endeavoured briefly in this chapter to show that the mental qualities of our domestic animals vary, and that the variations are inherited. Still more briefly I have attempted to show that instincts vary slightly in a state of nature. No one will dispute that instincts are of the highest importance to each animal. Therefore I can see no difficulty, under changing conditions of life, in natural selection accumulating slight modifications of instinct to any extent, in any useful direction. In some cases habit or use and disuse have probably come into play. I do not pretend that the facts given in this chapter strengthen in any great degree my theory; but none of the cases of difficulty, to the best of my judgment, annihilate it. On the other hand, the fact that instincts are not always absolutely perfect and are liable to mistakes;--that no instinct has been produced for the exclusive good of other animals, but that each animal takes advantage of the instincts of others;--that the canon in natural history, of 'natura non facit saltum' is applicable to instincts as well as to corporeal structure, and is plainly explicable on the foregoing views, but is otherwise inexplicable,--all tend to corroborate the theory of natural selection.

This theory is, also, strengthened by some few other facts in regard to instincts; as by that common case of closely allied, but certainly distinct, species, when inhabiting distant parts of the world and living under considerably different conditions of life, yet often retaining nearly the same instincts. For instance, we can understand on the principle of inheritance, how it is that the thrush of South America lines its nest with mud, in the same peculiar manner as does our British thrush: how it is that the male wrens (Troglodytes) of North America, build 'cock-nests,' to roost in, like the males of our distinct Kitty-wrens,--a habit wholly unlike that of any other known bird. Finally, it may not be a logical deduction, but to my imagination it is far more satisfactory to look at such instincts as the young cuckoo ejecting its foster-brothers,--ants making slaves,--the larvae of ichneumonidae feeding within the live bodies of caterpillars,--not as specially endowed or created instincts, but as small consequences of one general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.

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