Summary of Charles Darwin’s “Variation under Domestication”





Summary of Charles Darwin’s “Variation under Domestication”

“Variation under Domestication” is the first chapter in Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species, which encapsulates his research on varied array of plant and animal domesticated species in decades. The comparisons made between the variations in domesticated and wild species, their selection by humans and their origins, formed the paradigm of his evolutionary origin of species by natural selection theory. Domesticate lessons disparaged from this chapter is that organisms under human behest exist to feed, clothe, transport, house and even serve as cultural gestures. Using this approach, Darwin formulated his thesis indicating that the diversity with which domesticated organisms undergo displays the fundamental element in understanding the origin and evolution of species by natural selection. The first chapter in Darwin’s book displays imperative points concerning the transforming power of simulated selection in the foundation of new plant varieties and animal breeds.

Arguably, Darwin’s theory is an early example of nurture vs. nature. His research was based on nature. At the very beginning, he tries to explain the variety concept using different approaches. He affirms that sexual reproduction is the cause of variation (Darwin 15). This, he confirms through experiments, which assert that the development process and stages of an embryo are capable of affecting the individual after birth. Agreeably, there are cases of deformities that are a result of embryonic trauma. Secondly, a striking difference made in his theory is the immense variation among domesticated organisms compared to their relative wild counterparts. In this case, human beings foresee the selection process. Having being domesticated for centuries, it is evident that these animals become dependent on human beings for survival, just as people are equally dependent on their existence. He notes the sickly and weak nature of domesticated plants and animals and their sterility. Henceforth, domestic animals will only reproduce and thrive under human constrictions whereas those living in the wild have breeding and living difficulties while in captivity.

Furthermore, Darwin breaks varieties of such animals into their respective traits. He claimed that the captivity environment of a species affects the traits exhibited by a particular organism. For instance, he gives the example of how domesticated cows have bigger udders. This is because they are constantly subjected to milking (Darwin 19). Other examples include the drooping ears among livestock, which do not fear attacks from predators and light bones as well as lacking bone marrow in fowls since they are restricted from flying. Further classification made on similar animals is the existence of races (Darwin 21). He believed that there exist several races of animals than species. Using dogs as an example, he progressed to state that not all are from the same origin as there are different races among them. However, this contradictory observation may not be true as he also affirmed later on that dogs might have descended from one species. There are strong and even presumptive evidence in favor of this perception that dogs do have a common ancestry (Wade 1).

In his research on variation and natural selection, Darwin gains interest in the study of pigeons and their traits. It is during his involvement with pigeons that he stumbles upon the Mendelian inheritance law and recurrence of recessive mannerism in the F2 generation (Darwin 32). Many of Darwin’s insights were individual and empirically based. This brought about confusion in the interpretation of his work since they relied on phenotype and not a combination with genotype. From genetic inheritance, Darwin deduced that cross breeding between recessive and dominant mannerisms results in appearance of the recessive traits in the F2 generation and not in the F1 generation. However, he lacked adequate knowledge regarding genetic inheritance, which by then it had not been studied as much as it is today. According to his research, the recurrence of recessive traits was just but an individual’s genes tracing back to their ancestry form (Darwin 19). After making such conclusions, he did not conduct any further experiments regarding genetic inheritance as Mendel did. This makes his conclusion a little bit vague since it lacks adequate information.

Darwin’s work is related to biology in different ways. Through his conclusions and other related works, biologists were able to do more research involving segregation, plasticity, spontaneous mutation and other genetic studies. In fact, his work acts as a revelation into such biological studies regardless of the fact that his earlier conclusions were only based on observation. From a personal viewpoint, variability is not a necessary and inherent contingency under any circumstance as it has early been viewed. There is a reason attributed to the current actions and conditions of life. There are many unknown laws that govern variability more specifically by the association of growth. However, there is some significant truth behind Darwin’s research and beliefs, of which assists one in understanding the law of variation. The chapter provides information that enables one have a better understanding about selection and inheritance from a different viewpoint.


Works Cited

Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species. HarperCollins Canada, 2014. Print

Wade, Nicholas. “New Findings Puts Origins of Dogs in Middle East.” The New York Times. New York Times, 17 March 2010. Web. 10 Sep. 2014.

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