More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 2

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Author: Charles Darwin

Letter 683. To F. Muller. Down, January 1st, 1874.

No doubt I owe to your kindness two pamphlets received a few days ago, which have interested me in an extraordinary degree. (683/1. This refers to F. Muller’s "Bestaubungsversuche an Abutilon-Arten" in the "Jenaische Zeitschr." Volume VII., which are thus referred to by Darwin ("Cross and Self Fert." pages 305-6): "Fritz Muller has shown by his valuable experiments on hybrid Abutilons, that the union of brothers and sisters, parents and children, and of other near relations is highly injurious to the fertility of the offspring." The Termite paper is in the same volume (viz., VII.) of the "Jenaische Zeitschr.") It is quite new to me what you show about the effects of relationship in hybrids—that is to say, as far as direct proof is concerned. I felt hardly any doubt on the subject, from the fact of hybrids becoming more fertile when grown in number in nursery gardens, exactly the reverse of what occurred with Gartner. (683/2. When many hybrids are grown together the pollination by near relatives is minimised.) The paper on Termites is even still more interesting, and the analogy with cleistogene flowers is wonderful. (683/3. On the back of his copy of Muller’s paper Darwin wrote: "There exist imperfectly developed male and female Termites, with wings much shorter than those of queen and king, which serve to continue the species if a fully developed king and queen do not after swarming (which no doubt is for an occasional cross) enter [the] nest. Curiously like cleistogamic flowers.") The manner in which you refer to to my chapter on crossing is one of the most elegant compliments which I have ever received.

I have directed to be sent to you Belt’s "Nicaragua," which seems to me the best Natural History book of travels ever published. Pray look to what he says about the leaf-carrying ant storing the leaves up in a minced state to generate mycelium, on which he supposes that the larvae feed. Now, could you open the stomachs of these ants and examine the contents, so as to prove or disprove this remarkable hypothesis? (683/4. The hypothesis has been completely confirmed by the researches of Moller, a nephew of F. Muller’s: see his "Brasilische Pilzblumen" ("Botan. Mittheilgn. aus den Tropen," hrsg. von A.F.W. Schimper, Heft 7).)

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Chicago: Charles Darwin, "Letter 683. To F. Muller. Down, January 1st, 1874.," More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 2, ed. Darwin, Francis, Sir, 1848-1925 and Seward, A. C. (Albert Charles), 1863-1941 and trans. Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866 in More Letters of Charles Darwin Original Sources, accessed September 20, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CZI6PRCMRJ9GWM4.

MLA: Darwin, Charles. "Letter 683. To F. Muller. Down, January 1st, 1874." More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 2, edited by Darwin, Francis, Sir, 1848-1925 and Seward, A. C. (Albert Charles), 1863-1941, and translated by Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866, in More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 2, Original Sources. 20 Sep. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CZI6PRCMRJ9GWM4.

Harvard: Darwin, C, 'Letter 683. To F. Muller. Down, January 1st, 1874.' in More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 2, ed. and trans. . cited in , More Letters of Charles Darwin. Original Sources, retrieved 20 September 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CZI6PRCMRJ9GWM4.