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The Role of Selection in Evolution

Nature volume 100, pages 285286 (13 December 1917) | Download Citation



ABOUT the beginning of the twentieth century the current of doubt as to the evolutionary importance of processes of selection grew rapidly in strength, and swept not a few naturalists off their feet. Bateson and De Vries produced evidence of the frequent occurrence of discontinuous variations or mutations; De Vries began methodical testings of what selection could do in the course of years with maize, buttercups, striped flowers, and four-leaved clover-the general outcome being that it did not do very much; and Johannsen, working carefully on “pure lines” of beans, which are self-fertilising but show fluctuating variation in the size of the seed, proved that selection continued generation after generation in a particular direction may be without result, so far as any change in average seed size is concerned. These and other considerations led to a depreciation of the importance of selection processes. As Prof. W. E. Castle says in a very interesting pronouncement:—


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    Journ. Washington Acad. Sci., vii. (1917), No. 12, pp. 369–87.

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