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Siebold's New Researches in Parthenogenesis*

Nature volume 6, pages 483485 | Download Citation



A MIDST the all-absorbing discussion of the problems which have arisen out of the general acceptance among biologists of the law of evolution, the phenomenon of Parthenogenesis which, previously to Mr. Darwin's work on the Origin of Species, excited the interest and called forth the investigations of observers in much the same manner as his theory has done of late years, has met with a reverse of fortune and fallen into a subordinate rank of popularity. The distinguished naturalist, however, who fifteen years ago gave so stunning a blow to current theories of the reproductive process, by demonstrating the occurrence in moths and bees of what he designated as “true parthenogenesis ”—that is to say, the development, without impregnation, of an ovum capable of being impregnated—has not let the subject drop. Professor Siebold has made further experimental researches, establishing again, and on a larger basis, his former conclusion, and adding at least one new fact of great general importance for the understanding of the process of sexual reproduction. Although upon its first appearance in 1856, the conclusion arrived at in his “Wahre Parthenogenesis” was admitted by almost all competent naturalists to be thoroughly demonstrated, and beyond the reach of criticism; yet some more and some less eminent biologists have not been wanting to deny the Lucina sine concubitu, and have raised such objections as that of a possible error in the condition of the experiments depending on the exclusion of males from the supposed parthenogenetic female; and again, that these so-called females were not demonstrated 'not to be hermaphrodites.” Indeed so deeply rooted is the conviction that eggs are made to be impregnated by spermatozoa, and that they then, and then only, can proceed to develop, that Siebold felt it necessary to add to his proofs, in order to establish his position that not only do unimpregnated eggs develop into perfect animals, but that such an event is by no means an exceptional occurrence among certain groups, and has a definitely fixed and orderly recurrence amongst them. He naturally was also anxious to extend the class-limits within which a true parthenogenesis can be said to occur, and he desired to inquire into the sex of the parthenoge-netically-produced offspring in such cases as could be critically and decisively studied. Hence the renewed researches which have extended over several years, and the results of which are given in the present brochure.

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