The Descent of Man – Day 62 of 151

Dr. W. Marshall has lately made a special study of the protuberances so common on the heads of birds (43. ‘Uber die knochernen Schadelhocker der Vogel,’ in the ‘Niederland. Archiv fur Zoologie,’ B.i. Heft 2, 1872.), and he comes to the following conclusion:–that with those species in which they are confined to the males, they are developed late in life; whereas with those species in which they are common to the two sexes, they are developed at a very early period. This is certainly a striking confirmation of my two laws of inheritance.

In most of the species of the splendid family of the Pheasants, the males differ conspicuously from the females, and they acquire their ornaments at a rather late period of life. The eared pheasant (Crossoptilon auritum), however, offers a remarkable exception, for both sexes possess the fine caudal plumes, the large ear-tufts and the crimson velvet about the head; I find that all these characters appear very early in life in accordance with rule. The adult male can, however, be distinguished from the adult female by the presence of spurs; and conformably with our rule, these do not begin to be developed before the age of six months, as I am assured by Mr. Bartlett, and even at this age, the two sexes can hardly be distinguished. (44. In the common peacock (Pavo cristatus) the male alone possesses spurs, whilst both sexes of the Java Peacock (P. muticus) offer the unusual case of being furnished with spurs. Hence I fully expected that in the latter species they would have been developed earlier in life than in the common peacock; but M. Hegt of Amsterdam informs me, that with young birds of the previous year, of both species, compared on April 23rd, 1869, there was no difference in the development of the spurs. The spurs, however, were as yet represented merely by slight knobs or elevations. I presume that I should have been informed if any difference in the rate of development had been observed subsequently.) The male and female Peacock differ conspicuously from each other in almost every part of their plumage, except in the elegant head-crest, which is common to both sexes; and this is developed very early in life, long before the other ornaments, which are confined to the male. The wild-duck offers an analogous case, for the beautiful green speculum on the wings is common to both sexes, though duller and somewhat smaller in the female, and it is developed early in life, whilst the curled tail-feathers and other ornaments of the male are developed later. (45. In some other species of the Duck family the speculum differs in a greater degree in the two sexes; but I have not been able to discover whether its full development occurs later in life in the males of such species, than in the male of the common duck, as ought to be the case according to our rule. With the allied Mergus cucullatus we have, however, a case of this kind: the two sexes differ conspicuously in general plumage, and to a considerable degree in the speculum, which is pure white in the male and greyish-white in the female. Now the young males at first entirely resemble the females, and have a greyish-white speculum, which becomes pure white at an earlier age than that at which the adult male acquires his other and more strongly-marked sexual differences: see Audubon, ‘Ornithological Biography,’ vol. iii. 1835, pp. 249-250.) Between such extreme cases of close sexual resemblance and wide dissimilarity, as those of the Crossoptilon and peacock, many intermediate ones could be given, in which the characters follow our two rules in their order of development.

As most insects emerge from the pupal state in a mature condition, it is doubtful whether the period of development can determine the transference of their characters to one or to both sexes. But we do not know that the coloured scales, for instance, in two species of butterflies, in one of which the sexes differ in colour, whilst in the other they are alike, are developed at the same relative age in the cocoon. Nor do we know whether all the scales are simultaneously developed on the wings of the same species of butterfly, in which certain coloured marks are confined to one sex, whilst others are common to both sexes. A difference of this kind in the period of development is not so improbable as it may at first appear; for with the Orthoptera, which assume their adult state, not by a single metamorphosis, but by a succession of moults, the young males of some species at first resemble the females, and acquire their distinctive masculine characters only at a later moult. Strictly analogous cases occur at the successive moults of certain male crustaceans.

We have as yet considered the transference of characters, relatively to their period of development, only in species in a natural state; we will now turn to domesticated animals, and first touch on monstrosities and diseases. The presence of supernumerary digits, and the absence of certain phalanges, must be determined at an early embryonic period–the tendency to profuse bleeding is at least congenital, as is probably colour-blindness– yet these peculiarities, and other similar ones, are often limited in their transmission to one sex; so that the rule that characters, developed at an early period, tend to be transmitted to both sexes, here wholly fails. But this rule, as before remarked, does not appear to be nearly so general as the converse one, namely, that characters which appear late in life in one sex are transmitted exclusively to the same sex. From the fact of the above abnormal peculiarities becoming attached to one sex, long before the sexual functions are active, we may infer that there must be some difference between the sexes at an extremely early age. With respect to sexually-limited diseases, we know too little of the period at which they originate, to draw any safe conclusion. Gout, however, seems to fall under our rule, for it is generally caused by intemperance during manhood, and is transmitted from the father to his sons in a much more marked manner than to his daughters.

In the various domestic breeds of sheep, goats, and cattle, the males differ from their respective females in the shape or development of their horns, forehead, mane, dewlap, tail, and hump on the shoulders; and these peculiarities, in accordance with our rule, are not fully developed until a rather late period of life. The sexes of dogs do not differ, except that in certain breeds, especially in the Scotch deer-hound, the male is much larger and heavier than the female; and, as we shall see in a future chapter, the male goes on increasing in size to an unusually late period of life, which, according to rule, will account for his increased size being transmitted to his male offspring alone. On the other hand, the tortoise-shell colour, which is confined to female cats, is quite distinct at birth, and this case violates the rule. There is a breed of pigeons in which the males alone are streaked with black, and the streaks can be detected even in the nestlings; but they become more conspicuous at each successive moult, so that this case partly opposes and partly supports the rule. With the English Carrier and Pouter pigeons, the full development of the wattle and the crop occurs rather late in life, and conformably with the rule, these characters are transmitted in full perfection to the males alone. The following cases perhaps come within the class previously alluded to, in which both sexes have varied in the same manner at a rather late period of life, and have consequently transferred their new characters to both sexes at a corresponding late period; and if so, these cases are not opposed to our rule:–there exist sub-breeds of the pigeon, described by Neumeister (46. ‘Das Ganze der Taubenzucht,’ 1837, ss. 21, 24. For the case of the streaked pigeons, see Dr. Chapuis, ‘Le pigeon voyageur Belge,’ 1865, p. 87.), in which both sexes change their colour during two or three moults (as is likewise the case with the Almond Tumbler); nevertheless, these changes, though occurring rather late in life, are common to both sexes. One variety of the Canary-bird, namely the London Prize, offers a nearly analogous case.

With the breeds of the Fowl the inheritance of various characters by one or both sexes, seems generally determined by the period at which such characters are developed. Thus in all the many breeds in which the adult male differs greatly in colour from the female, as well as from the wild parent-species, he differs also from the young male, so that the newly-acquired characters must have appeared at a rather late period of life. On the other hand, in most of the breeds in which the two sexes resemble each other, the young are coloured in nearly the same manner as their parents, and this renders it probable that their colours first appeared early in life. We have instances of this fact in all black and white breeds, in which the young and old of both sexes are alike; nor can it be maintained that there is something peculiar in a black or white plumage, which leads to its transference to both sexes; for the males alone of many natural species are either black or white, the females being differently coloured. With the so-called Cuckoo sub-breeds of the fowl, in which the feathers are transversely pencilled with dark stripes, both sexes and the chickens are coloured in nearly the same manner. The laced plumage of the Sebright bantam is the same in both sexes, and in the young chickens the wing-feathers are distinctly, though imperfectly laced. Spangled Hamburgs, however, offer a partial exception; for the two sexes, though not quite alike, resemble each other more closely than do the sexes of the aboriginal parent-species; yet they acquire their characteristic plumage late in life, for the chickens are distinctly pencilled. With respect to other characters besides colour, in the wild-parent species and in most of the domestic breeds, the males alone possess a well-developed comb; but in the young of the Spanish fowl it is largely developed at a very early age, and, in accordance with this early development in the male, it is of unusual size in the adult female. In the Game breeds pugnacity is developed at a wonderfully early age, of which curious proofs could be given; and this character is transmitted to both sexes, so that the hens, from their extreme pugnacity, are now generally exhibited in separate pens. With the Polish breeds the bony protuberance of the skull which supports the crest is partially developed even before the chickens are hatched, and the crest itself soon begins to grow, though at first feebly (47. For full particulars and references on all these points respecting the several breeds of the Fowl, see ‘Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,’ vol. i. pp. 250, 256. In regard to the higher animals, the sexual differences which have arisen under domestication are described in the same work under the head of each species.); and in this breed the adults of both sexes are characterised by a great bony protuberance and an immense crest.

Finally, from what we have now seen of the relation which exists in many natural species and domesticated races, between the period of the development of their characters and the manner of their transmission–for example, the striking fact of the early growth of the horns in the reindeer, in which both sexes bear horns, in comparison with their much later growth in the other species in which the male alone bears horns–we may conclude that one, though not the sole cause of characters being exclusively inherited by one sex, is their development at a late age. And secondly, that one, though apparently a less efficient cause of characters being inherited by both sexes, is their development at an early age, whilst the sexes differ but little in constitution. It appears, however, that some difference must exist between the sexes even during a very early embryonic period, for characters developed at this age not rarely become attached to one sex.

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