So far we have established the variation within a population of organisms obviously exists in domesticated animals (think of all the variants of dogs and apples). We have also established that variation exists in the wild, although we often overlook it. If anyone has doubts about the existence of variation within populations, please leave your point or issue in the comments and I'll try to address it.
Now Darwin is laying out another, albeit distinct, fact. Namely that populations increase to the point where there is competition between individuals within and without the population. First, he lays out the idea of a 'struggle for existence' incorporating both within a population and between populations in one beautiful paragraph:
I should premise that I use this term in a large and metaphorical sense, including dependence of one being on another, and including (which is more important) not only the life of the individual, but success in leaving progeny. Two canine animals, in a time of dearth, may be truly said to struggle with each other which shall get food and live. But a plant on the edge of a desert is said to struggle for life against the drought, though more properly it should be said to be dependent on the moisture. A plant which annually produces a thousand seeds, of which only one of an average comes to maturity, may be more truly said to struggle with the plants of the same and other kinds which already clothe the ground. The mistletoe is dependent on the apple and a few other trees, but can only in a far-fetched sense be said to struggle with these trees, for, if too many of these parasites grow on the same tree, it languishes and dies. But several seedling mistletoes, growing close together on the same branch, may more truly be said to struggle with each other. As the mistletoe is disseminated by birds, its existence depends on them; and it may metaphorically be said to struggle with other fruit-bearing plants, in tempting the birds to devour and thus disseminate its seeds. In these several senses, which pass into each other, I use for convenience sake the general term of Struggle for Existence.
|Purves et al., Life: The Science of Biology, 4th Edition|
|S. pneumoniae strains|
growing in MS medium
A generic version of exponential growth looks like this. The
real data with S. pneumoniae shown above only has the A, B, and C aspects of the growth curve on it (we'll come back to the D aspect). So in a normal bacterial growth curve there is an A (lag) phase, a B (logarithmic) phase, a C (stationary) phase, and a D (death) phase. This also appears to be the case with other organisms including mammals (see the same phases for both moose and wolves above). Hell let's look at the human population:
|There's a clear A and B phase. Where's C and D?|
From this one example, we see an obvious check on the growth of a population, but also the interconnectedness of many distinct species and how disrupting one (to benefit another) can have dramatic consequences. You can insert your favorite invasive species here as an example.
Shortly after the above statement, Darwin eloquently states:
I cannot help but wonder what critique or 'reviewer' this was addressed to.
The chapter finishes by coming back to where we began. There is an obvious struggle between and among individuals of the same and distinct species. Furthermore, there exists variation in essentially all traits between individuals of the same species. From these two well established facts, the deduction that the variation within a species can serve to benefit or hinder the ability of an individual in its struggle for existence. I'll let Darwin express it himself:
Please add your own thoughts and comments below and get cracking on chapter 4, it's great but a longer one. I also want to thank RBH and CMB for reading and letting me know these posts matter at least a little.