Origin of Species Revisited

Origin of Species Revisited: A Victorian Who Anticipated Modern Developments in Darwin's Theory

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 352
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Origin of Species Revisited
    Book Description:

    The trail led first to Joseph Hooker and Thomas Huxley, who had been both the theory's strongest supporters and its most penetrating critics, and eventually to Darwin's young research associate George Romanes and the Victorian-Edwardian William Bateson. Although these men were well-known, their resolution of the origin of species paradox has either been ignored (Romanes), or ignored and reviled (Bateson).

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6962-1
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. 1-6)

    For a biologist, the “highest object” for “unwearied endeavour” is the question of the origin of species. It is a bold endeavour, but one which must, from time to time, be revisited. Without an understanding of the origin of species we cannot understand biological evolution – the light which illuminates genes, the biomedical sciences and much of our existence.

    The modern story began in 1859 with the Darwin–Wallace theory of the origin of species by natural selection. From the start there were obvious inconsistencies. Then, at the turn of the nineteenth century came two major developments: first, the publication (and...

    • 1 Evolution of Languages and Species
      (pp. 9-14)

      This rhyme would readily be pronounced by most of the cast ofPygmalion(Shaw 1913), which included the “toff” Freddy Eynsford-Hill, a man of some social standing. However, the “pore flahr gel,” Eliza Doolittle, would have said “Miree ader liawl laimb, sfloyce wors woyt ers snaa.” Both sentences convey theprimaryinformation that Mary possessed an immature, white, sheep. In class-conscious England at the beginning of the twentieth century, the sentences would also have communicated thesecondaryinformation that Eliza was of “lower class” cockney origin, whereas other members of the cast were of “middle class” origin.

      In modern genetic...

    • 2 Variation, Heredity, Phenotypic and Reproductive Selection
      (pp. 15-26)

      Some aspects of the Romanes–Gulick version of the Darwin–Wallace theory of evolution by natural selection will now be outlined. Don’t worry if you are not comfortable with it at first. We will clarify the details later. The present aim is to give you some feeling for where we are going, and introduce some general concepts, terms and definitions.

      The theory incorporates four fundamental processes: variation, inheritance, phenotypic selection, and reproductive selection. Evolution results from the accumulation of many evolutionary “events,” each involving some or all of these processes. Each process is itself composed of a series of sub-events,...

    • 3 Darwin’s Difficulties
      (pp. 27-38)

      Ayala and Fitch (1997) note that: “The most serious difficulty facing Darwin’s evolutionary theory was the lack of an adequate theory of inheritance that would account for thepreservationthrough the generations of the variations on which natural selection was supposed to act.” Darwin’s Victorian critics were very concerned about the preservation of variation. Since we wish as much as possible to let the Victorians tell the story, we must pause, read, and reread, the sometimes convoluted prose of one who was both Darwin’s most staunch defender and most penetrating critic, Thomas Henry Huxley (1888 ch.10, 290). The effort is...

    • 4 Hybrid Sterility
      (pp. 39-46)

      The diversity of organisms is such that few generalizations are absolute in biology. The biological universe consists of a broad mass of organisms to which a given generalization may apply, as well as special cases to which the same generalization may not apply. The study of special cases can be illuminating (“Treasure your exceptions” was Bateson’s admonition), but that they may be special cases, perhaps of little general relevance, should always be borne in mind. One of Darwin’s great strengths was his ability to winnow the relevant from the irrelevant, but when considering sterility even he could be confused. For...

    • 5 Physiological Selection
      (pp. 47-63)

      Whether or not George Romanes was influenced by Conan Doyle, certainly he was influenced by Charles Darwin, who became his close mentor. The bookIsolation and Physiological Selection(1897), the last of Romanes’ three volume seriesDarwin, and After Darwin,must surely rank, next to Darwin’sThe Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection(1859), as one of the great scientific detective stories of all time. Extending speculations of Belt (1874) and Catchpool (1884), the Romanes–Gulick theory of the origin of species by means of “physiological selection” went as far as the Victorians could be expected to have...

    • 6 Failure of Meiotic Pairing
      (pp. 64-71)

      Although given a variety of names (physiological units, pangens, biophors, character units), the idea that inherited phenotypic characteristics were determined in some way by distinct elements, now equated with “genes,” was well established by the end of the nineteenth century (Kellogg 1907). With the re-emergence of the work of Mendel (1865) and new microscopical observations of cells, the time was ripe for theoretical synthesis. Because it explained so much, it was easy (and certainly politically correct; see Part 4) to believe that the “genic” viewpoint explained everything. Thus, theories tended to be couched entirely in terms of genes. Bateson was...

    • 7 Conjugation of the Chromosomes
      (pp. 72-79)

      Bateson’s 1922 Toronto address generated a flurry of correspondence in both the general and the scientific literature. His reasoning was found “very difficult to understand, and his “idea of a specific base distinct from specific characters” was dismissed as “merely false metaphysics” (Cunningham 1922). One correspondent, however, came very close to grasping Bateson’s message concerning the mechanism of chromosome pairing (Crowther 1922):

      If a sword and its scabbard are bent in different directions, it will happen sooner or later that the sword cannot be inserted, and the result will be the same whether the bending be effected by a single...

    • 8 Why Sex?
      (pp. 80-86)

      Imagine a world without males in which each woman, on average, was able to produce two offspring per generation asexually. Both of these would be female. In the first generation there would be two women. In the second generation there would be four women. In the third generation eight women, and so on. With a similar limit to offspring number, in a sexual world a woman would be likely to produce one male and one female per generation. Only the latter, on being fertilized by a male, would produce further offspring. In the first generation there would be two individuals,...

    • 9 Molecular Biology
      (pp. 89-99)

      Mendel is generally thought of as a biologist. Yet his early training in Vienna was in physics, which may explain his emphasis on the quantitation of biological phenomena (Roberts 1929; Iltis 1932; Olby 1985; Forsdyke 2001b). It is hardly surprising that, in a world much awed by Einstein’s new concepts of space and time, Bateson (1913 ch.2, 41) should seek to recruit physicists to the species problem: “It is I fear a problem rather for the physicist than for the biologist. ... I suspect that when at length minds of first-rate analytical power are attracted to biological problems, some advance...

    • 10 Primary and Secondary Levels of Information
      (pp. 100-107)

      Genome sequencing projects reveal the number of genes in an organism, and the proportion of those genes which correspond to known functions. At the time of this writing (circa 1998) some small genomes have been entirely sequenced. About half the genes correspond to known functions. For the first time it appears we have some measure of our ignorance. However, genomes convey more than just genic information. We now return to the parallels between the evolution of languages and of species which began in chapter 1, and show that the words of a “pore flahr gel” can further dispel our ignorance....

    • 11 The Dominance of the Genome Phenotype
      (pp. 108-116)

      In chapter 1 two sequences were shown, each encoding the same protein, but differing dramatically in (C+G)%. This was possible because the genetic code is a degenerate code, so that a particular amino acid in a protein can be encoded by one of a range of possible codons. Thus CG-rich codons or AT-rich (CG-poor) codons may be used to encode a particular amino acid.

      The first amino acid in the sequences shown in chapter 1, phenylalanine, was coded for by TTT in the first sequence, and TTC in the second sequence. An accepted mutation of the codon TTT in the...

    • 12 Initiation of Speciation
      (pp. 117-126)

      Modern species derive from common ancestors which are now extinct. At one time-point there was a set of interbreeding organisms which could be considered as one species. At a subsequent time-point that original species had diverged into two new species, A and B. Between these timepoints the DNA sequences of the two groups changed in such a way that it became more advantageous for members of A to reproduce with members of A, and for members of B to reproduce with members of B. Given the great diversity of living organisms, one would expect there to be a variety of...

    • 13 Relationship to Physiological Selection
      (pp. 127-134)

      Chapters 9 to 12 update Darwin’sThe Origin of Speciesin the light of recent advances in molecular biology and bioinformatics. It remains to consider how the new viewpoint relates to the process of physiological selection as proposed by Romanes (Part 1). It will be for the reader (and posterity) to decide whether two and two equals four. Bateson’s best attempt to explain the facts of hybrid sterility (chapter 6) provides a convenient point of departure.

      “If species have a common origin, where did they pick up the ingredients which produce this sexual incompatibility? Almost certainly it is a variation...

    • 14 Selfish Genes and Selfish Groups
      (pp. 137-149)

      We were disconcerted when Copernicus told us, what the ancient Greeks had long thought, that the earth is not the centre of the universe. A major lesson of the ongoing revolution in the biological sciences is even more disconcerting. Phrased in Copernican terms we are told that we are not at the “centre” of our own DNA. The DNA in each of our cells encodes the information for many of our characteristics, such as the colour of our eyes, or whether we are likely to become diabetic. Our DNA occupies the central and most hallowed part of our cells, the...

    • 15 Slow Fine-Tuning of Sequences
      (pp. 150-156)

      Most mutations are deleterious. Natural species appear so well adapted to their contemporary environments that changes among species members are generally for the worse. Changed members are selected against. So well-adapted are many natural plant species that we designate them as “weeds.” Their members grow rapidly and form seed even in nutritionally unfavourable conditions. Domestic plants usually grow more slowly, even in nutritionally favourable conditions.

      Such observations suggest that the process which is the major concern of this book, theinitiationof speciation, is but the beginning of a much slower process of adaptive fine-tuning. Following initial speciation events, a...

    • 16 Fine-Tuning of RNAs
      (pp. 157-163)

      To the several forms of DNA information discussed so far (chapter 14), can be added forms which arose from selective pressures to avoid interactions between RNAs. That the cytosol is not effectively structured to prevent unwanted chance interactions between molecules is evident from the ease with which it is possible to interfere experimentally with cellular processes by injecting or expressing molecules in cells. An “antisense” RNA introduced into a cell can interact with the corresponding complementary “sense” RNA and block its function (Izant and Weintraub 1984). Thus mRNAs are available for RNA—RNA interactions, with the potential to form double-stranded...

    • 17 RNAs Driving on the Wrong Side
      (pp. 164-172)

      Conventional natural selection promotes within-species adaptation. The “physiological selection” of Romanes, by modifying DNA to generate exclusivity of recombination, allows divergence (Parts 1 and 2). After divergence, each of the resulting species now becomes part of the environment of the other. Further divergence creates more species and a more elaborate environment. Eventually species appear whose major evolutionary strategy relates to other species. Furthermore, species both diverge and converge. The convergence may be either mutually advantageous (symbiotic), or predatory. The interaction may be at the level of individual whole organisms (lion eats horse), or the interaction may involve a member of...

    • 18 Protein Concentration and Genetic Dominance
      (pp. 173-182)

      While not a reconciliation of theories of the evolution of genetic dominance, there now seems to be a stronger case for the “dose-response” or “physiological” theory of one party (Haldane 1930; Muller 1932; Wright 1977 ch.15, 513), than that of the other (Fisher 1931). In 1980 Kacser and Burns presented a detailed enzyme kinetic account of the dose-response theory. We will here consider a simpler version implicating a strange class of proteins, known as “heat-shock” proteins, in the evolution of dominance (Forsdyke 1994a).

      In a diploid organism there are two sets of chromosomes (homologs), one set carrying paternally-derived genes and...

    • 19 Sex Chromosomes
      (pp. 183-200)

      There are few areas in biology where “the various facts” are more in need of “some feasible explanation” than those of sex-chromosome differentiation and the associated phenomenon of dosage compensation. In many species, males and females are produced in equal quantities. Mendel himself is interpreted as imputing that such equal quantities would be produced if a recessive homozygote were crossed with a heterozygote (Bateson 1909b ch.10, 165). Thus, if red is dominant to white, when a homozygous white (WW, producing one type of gamete,Wand W) is crossed with a heterozygous red (RW, producing two types of gamete, R...

    • 20 The Philosopher
      (pp. 203-216)

      Science conventionally proceeds from hypothesis to experiment, which in turn generates data which support or refute the hypothesis. The deluge of data arising from various genome projects has somewhat altered this sequence. Hypothesis can proceed directly to data, which, in a twinkling, can be analyzed by powerful computer software. Thus in my laboratory in the 1990s we were able rapidly to test some new ideas on evolution. The results were supportive, papers were written, and after minor skirmishes with reviewers, were duly published. Our conclusions seemed so simple – so childishly simple perhaps (see Part 2), that the question arose as...

    • 21 Huxley and The Philosopher’s Wife
      (pp. 217-233)

      Overt opposition to Romanes’ views was provided by Wallace (see chapter 20). However, the most penetrating was provided by Huxley (Figure 21.1), the Professor of Biology at what is now known as the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, in South Kensington, London. A man of deep social conscience, towering over most of his Victorian contemporaries, his presence has been felt throughout this book.

      Letters from Michael Foster and Huxley smoothed Bateson’s passage to field studies in Russia (1886-1887), and Bateson sent Huxley a copy of his data-ladenMaterials for the Study of Variation(1893), where there is a...

    • 22 “We Commend This State of Mind”
      (pp. 234-240)

      Conventional wisdom has it that scientists first review the literature pertinent to their research interest, construct a hypothesis, and then either perform experiments, or examine the ideas and experiments of others that may bear on the hypothesis. However, given time constraints and the volume of the literature, they have to be selective in their review, taking guidance from those who have gone before. If this guidance is inadequate then the literature review may be inadequate, as may be the work that follows.

      It is shown here that Romanes’ work was not appreciated by his contemporaries, and was overlooked by most...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 241-242)

    In the Prologue I record my surprise at finding that Romanes was born in Kingston, Canada. To appreciate a somewhat surreal aspect of this, the reader should first know a little of my personal history. I was born in London, England, and in 1961 graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School (now part of “Huxley’s college,” the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, at London University). After internships in medicine, psychiatry and surgery, I obtained a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Cambridge, where I resided in Christ’s College (Darwin’s college). Through the employment section of various scientific...

  10. References
    (pp. 243-264)
  11. Index
    (pp. 265-275)