PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Domestic fancy pigeon breeds. Three illustrations from Cassell's 'Pigeon Book' (1874) showing the diverse array of fancy pigeons bred at the time. Shown here are: red and yellow jacobins, a red-pied pouter cock, and shield, hyacinth and suabian pigeons. Darwin saw natural selection as operating like a human breeder to favour those individuals whose traits best suited them for reproduction in the prevailing conditions. Darwin himself bred pigeons from 1855 and became very familiar with the literature, pigeon types and pigeon breeders. He joined two of the London pigeon clubs and noted that behaviour as well as appearance could be selected for. He also believed that an ornithologist faced with any of these varieties in the wild would not hesitate to make them a different species from the ancestral stock. He took the heritable variability bred into domestic animals like pigeons as an opening argument for his 'On the Origin of Species' (1859).
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