2. Mutual aid among animals (cont.)

Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

Migrations of birds.-- Breeding associations. -- Autumn
societies. -- Mammals: small number of unsociable species. --
Hunting associations of wolves, lions, etc. -- Societies of
rodents; of ruminants; of monkeys. -- Mutual Aid in the struggle
for life. -- Darwin's arguments to prove the struggle for life
within the species. -- Natural checks to over-multiplication. --
Supposed extermination of intermediate links. -- Elimination of
competition in Nature.

As soon as spring comes back to the temperate zone, myriads

and myriads of birds which are scattered over the warmer regions

of the South come together in numberless bands, and, full of

vigour and joy, hasten northwards to rear their offspring. Each

of our hedges, each grove, each ocean cliff, and each of the

lakes and ponds with which Northern America, Northern Europe, and

Northern Asia are dotted tell us at that time of the year the

tale of what mutual aid means for the birds; what force, energy,

and protection it confers to every living being, however feeble

and defenceless it otherwise might be. Take, for instance, one of

the numberless lakes of the Russian and Siberian Steppes. Its

shores are peopled with myriads of aquatic birds, belonging to at

least a score of different species, all living in perfect

peace-all protecting one another.

"For several hundred yards from the shore the air is filled with

gulls and terns, as with snow-flakes on a winter day. Thousands

of plovers and sand-coursers run over the beach, searching their.

food, whistling, and simply enjoying life. Further on, on almost

each wave, a duck is rocking, while higher up you notice the

flocks of the Casarki ducks. Exuberant life swarms


And here are the robbers -- the strongest, the most cunning

ones, those "ideally organized for robbery." And you hear their

hungry, angry, dismal cries as for hours in succession they watch

the opportunity of snatching from this mass of living beings one

single unprotected individual. But as soon as they approach,

their presence is signalled by dozens of voluntary sentries, and

hundreds of gulls and terns set to chase the robber. Maddened by

hunger, the robber soon abandons his usual precautions: he

suddenly dashes into the living mass; but, attacked from all

sides, he again is compelled to retreat. From sheer despair he

falls upon the wild ducks; but the intelligent, social birds

rapidly gather in a flock and fly away if the robber is an erne;

they plunge into the lake if it is a falcon; or they raise a

cloud of water-dust and bewilder the assailant if it is a

kite.2 And while life continues to swarm on the lake, the

robber flies away with cries of anger, and looks out for carrion,

or for a young bird or a field-mouse not yet used to obey in time

the warnings of its comrades. In the face of an exuberant life,

the ideally-armed robber must be satisfied with the off-fall of

that life.

Further north, in the Arctic archipelagoes,

"you may sail along the coast for many miles and see all the

ledges, all the cliffs and corners of the mountain-sides, up to a

height of from two to five hundred feet, literally covered with

sea-birds, whose white breasts show against the dark rocks as if

the rocks were closely sprinkled with chalk specks. The air, near

and far, is, so to say, full with fowls."3

Each of such "bird-mountains" is a living illustration of mutual

aid, as well as of the infinite variety of characters, individual

and specific, resulting from social life. The oyster-catcher is

renowned for its readiness to attack the birds of prey. The barge

is known for its watchfulness, and it easily becomes the leader

of more placid birds. The turnstone, when surrounded by comrades

belonging to more energetic species, is a rather timorous bird;

but it undertakes to keep watch for the security of the

commonwealth when surrounded by smaller birds. Here you have the

dominative swans; there, the extremely sociable kittiwake-gulls,

among whom quarrels are rare and short; the prepossessing polar

guillemots, which continually caress each other; the egoist

she-goose, who has repudiated the orphans of a killed comrade;

and, by her side, another female who adopts any one's orphans,

and now paddles surrounded by fifty or sixty youngsters, whom she

conducts and cares for as if they all were her own breed. Side by

side with the penguins, which steal one another's eggs, you have

the dotterels, whose family relations are so "charming and

touching" that even passionate hunters recoil from shooting a

female surrounded by her young ones; or the eider-ducks, among

which (like the velvet-ducks, or the coroyas of the Savannahs)

several females hatch together in the same, nest. or the lums,

which sit in turn upon a common covey. Nature is variety itself,

offering all possible varieties of characters, from the basest to

the highest: and that is why she cannot be depicted by any

sweeping assertion. Still less can she be judged from the

moralist's point of view, because the views of the moralist are

themselves a result -- mostly unconscious -- of the observation

of Nature.4

Coming together at nesting-time is so common with most birds

that more examples are scarcely needed. Our trees are crowned

with groups of crows' nests; our hedges are full of nests of

smaller birds; our farmhouses give shelter to colonies of

swallows; our old towers are the refuge of hundreds of nocturnal

birds; and pages might be filled with the most charming

descriptions of the peace and harmony which prevail in almost all

these nesting associations. As to the protection derived by the

weakest birds from their unions, it is evident. That excellent

observer, Dr. Cou?s, saw, for instance, the little cliff-swallows

nesting in the immediate neighbourhood of the prairie falcon

(Falco polyargus). The falcon had its nest on the top of one of

the minarets of clay which are so common in the ca?ons of

Colorado, while a colony of swallows nested just beneath. The

little peaceful birds had no fear of their rapacious neighbour;

they never let it approach to their colony. They immediately

surrounded it and chased it, so that it had to make off at


Life in societies does not cease when the nesting period is

over; it begins then in a new form. The young broods gather in

societies of youngsters, generally including several species.

Social life is practised at that time chiefly for its own sake --

partly for security, but chiefly for the pleasures derived from

it. So we see in our forests the societies formed by the young

nuthatchers (Sitta caesia), together with tit-mouses,

chaffinches, wrens, tree-creepers, or some wood-peckers.6 In

Spain the swallow is met with in company with kestrels,

fly-catchers, and even pigeons. In the Far West of America the

young horned larks live in large societies, together with another

lark (Sprague's), the skylark, the Savannah sparrow, and several

species of buntings and longspurs.7 In fact, it would be much

easier to describe the species which live isolated than to simply

name those species which join the autumnal societies of young

birds -- not for hunting or nesting purposes, but simply to enjoy

life in society and to spend their time in plays and sports,

after having given a few hours every day to find their daily


And, finally, we have that immense display of mutual aid

among birds-their migrations -- which I dare not even enter upon

in this place. Sufficient to say that birds which have lived for

months in small bands scattered over a wide territory gather in

thousands; they come together at a given place, for several days

in succession, before they start, and they evidently discuss the

particulars of the journey. Some species will indulge every

afternoon in flights preparatory to the long passage. All wait

for their tardy congeners, and finally they start in a certain

well chosen direction -- a fruit of accumulated collective

experience -- the strongest flying at the head of the band, and

relieving one another in that difficult task. They cross the seas

in large bands consisting of both big and small birds, and when

they return next spring they repair to the same spot, and, in

most cases, each of them takes possession of the very same nest

which it had built or repaired the previous year.8

This subject is so vast, and yet so imperfectly studied; it

offers so many striking illustrations of mutual-aid habits,

subsidiary to the main fact of migration -- each of which would,

however, require a special study -- that I must refrain from

entering here into more details. I can only cursorily refer to

the numerous and animated gatherings of birds which take place,

always on the same spot, before they begin their long journeys

north or south, as also those which one sees in the north, after

the birds have arrived at their breeding-places on the Yenisei or

in the northern counties of England. For many days in succession

-- sometimes one month -- they will come together every morning

for one hour, before flying in search of food -- perhaps

discussing the spot where they are going to build their

nests.9 And if, during the migration, their columns are

overtaken by a storm, birds of the most different species will be

brought together by common misfortune. The birds which are not

exactly migratory, but slowly move northwards and southwards with

the seasons, also perform these peregrinations in flocks. So far

from migrating isolately, in order to secure for each separate

individual the advantages of better food or shelter which are to

be found in another district -- they always wait for each other,

and gather in flocks, before they move north or south, in

accordance with the season.10

Going now over to mammals, the first thing which strikes us

is the overwhelming numerical predominance of social species over

those few carnivores which do not associate. The plateaus, the

Alpine tracts, and the Steppes of the Old and New World are

stocked with herds of deer, antelopes, gazelles, fallow deer,

buffaloes, wild goats and sheep, all of which are sociable

animals. When the Europeans came to settle in America, they found

it so densely peopled with buffaloes, that pioneers had to stop

their advance when a column of migrating buffaloes came to cross

the route they followed; the march past of the dense column

lasting sometimes for two and three days. And when the Russians

took possession of Siberia they found it so densely peopled with

deer, antelopes, squirrels, and other sociable animals, that the

very conquest of Siberia was nothing but a hunting expedition

which lasted for two hundred years; while the grass plains of

Eastern Africa are still covered with herds composed of zebra,

the hartebeest, and other antelopes.

Not long ago the small streams of Northern America and

Northern Siberia were peopled with colonies of beavers, and up to

the seventeenth century like colonies swarmed in Northern Russia.

The flat lands of the four great continents are still covered

with countless colonies of mice, ground-squirrels, marmots, and

other rodents. In the lower latitudes of Asia and Africa the

forests are still the abode of numerous families of elephants,

rhinoceroses, and numberless societies of monkeys. In the far

north the reindeer aggregate in numberless herds; while still

further north we find the herds of the musk-oxen and numberless

bands of polar foxes. The coasts of the ocean are enlivened by

flocks of seals and morses; its waters, by shoals of sociable

cetaceans; and even in the depths of the great plateau of Central

Asia we find herds of wild horses, wild donkeys, wild camels, and

wild sheep. All these mammals live in societies and nations

sometimes numbering hundreds of thousands of individuals,

although now, after three centuries of gunpowder civilization, we

find but the d?bris of the immense aggregations of old. How

trifling, in comparison with them, are the numbers of the

carnivores! And how false, therefore, is the view of those who

speak of the animal world as if nothing were to be seen in it but

lions and hyenas plunging their bleeding teeth into the flesh of

their victims! One might as well imagine that the whole of human

life is nothing but a succession of war massacres.

Association and mutual aid are the rule with mammals. We find

social habits even among the carnivores, and we can only name the

cat tribe (lions, tigers, leopards, etc.) as a division the

members of which decidedly prefer isolation to society, and are

but seldom met with even in small groups. And yet, even among

lions "this is a very common practice to hunt in company."11

The two tribes of the civets (Viverridae) and the weasels

(Mustelidae) might also be characterized by their isolated life,

but it is a fact that during the last century the common weasel

was more sociable than it is now; it was seen then in larger

groups in Scotland and in the Unterwalden canton of Switzerland.

As to the great tribe of the dogs, it is eminently sociable, and

association for hunting purposes may be considered as eminently

characteristic of its numerous species. It is well known, in

fact, that wolves gather in packs for hunting, and Tschudi left

an excellent description of how they draw up in a half-circle,

surround a cow which is grazing on a mountain slope, and then,

suddenly appearing with a loud barking, make it roll in the

abyss.12 Audubon, in the thirties, also saw the Labrador

wolves hunting in packs, and one pack following a man to his

cabin, and killing the dogs. During severe winters the packs of

wolves grow so numerous as to become a danger for human

settlements, as was the case in France some five-and-forty years

ago. In the Russian Steppes they never attack the horses

otherwise than in packs; and yet they have to sustain bitter

fights, during which the horses (according to Kohl's testimony)

sometimes assume offensive warfare, and in such cases, if the

wolves do not retreat promptly, they run the risk of being

surrounded by the horses and killed by their hoofs. The

prairie-wolves (Canis latrans) are known to associate in bands of

from twenty to thirty individuals when they chase a buffalo

occasionally separated from its herd.13 Jackals, which are

most courageous and may be considered as one of the most

intelligent representatives of the dog tribe, always hunt in

packs; thus united, they have no fear of the bigger

carnivores.14 As to the wild dogs of Asia (the Kholzuns, or

Dholes), Williamson saw their large packs attacking all larger

animals save elephants and rhinoceroses, and overpowering bears

and tigers. Hyenas always live in societies and hunt in packs,

and the hunting organizations of the painted lycaons are highly

praised by Cumming. Nay, even foxes, which, as a rule, live

isolated in our civilized countries, have been seen combining for

hunting purposes.15 As to the polar fox, it is -- or rather

was in Steller's time -- one of the most sociable animals; and

when one reads Steller's description of the war that was waged by

Behring's unfortunate crew against these intelligent small

animals, one does not know what to wonder at most: the

extraordinary intelligence of the foxes and the mutual aid they

displayed in digging out food concealed under cairns, or stored

upon a pillar (one fox would climb on its top and throw the food

to its comrades beneath), or the cruelty of man, driven to

despair by the numerous packs of foxes. Even some bears live in

societies where they are not disturbed by man. Thus Steller saw

the black bear of Kamtchatka in numerous packs, and the polar

bears are occasionally found in small groups. Even the

unintelligent insectivores do not always disdain


However, it is especially with the rodents, the ungulata, and

the ruminants that we find a highly developed practice of mutual

aid. The squirrels are individualist to a great extent. Each of

them builds its own comfortable nest, and accumulates its own

provision. Their inclinations are towards family life, and Brehm

found that a family of squirrels is never so happy as when the

two broods of the same year can join together with their parents

in a remote corner of a forest. And yet they maintain social

relations. The inhabitants of the separate nests remain in a

close intercourse, and when the pine-cones become rare in the

forest they inhabit, they emigrate in bands. As to the black

squirrels of the Far West, they are eminently sociable. Apart

from the few hours given every day to foraging, they spend their

lives in playing in numerous parties. And when they multiply too

rapidly in a region, they assemble in bands, almost as numerous

as those of locusts, and move southwards, devastating the

forests, the fields, and the gardens; while foxes, polecats,

falcons, and nocturnal birds of prey follow their thick columns

and live upon the individuals remaining behind. The

ground-squirrel -- a closely-akin genus -- is still more

sociable. It is given to hoarding, and stores up in its

subterranean halls large amounts of edible roots and nuts,

usually plundered by man in the autumn. According to some

observers, it must know something of the joys of a miser. And yet

it remains sociable. It always lives in large villages, and

Audubon, who opened some dwellings of the hackee in the winter,

found several individuals in the same apartment; they must have

stored it with common efforts.

The large tribe, of the marmots, which includes the three

large genuses of Arctomys, Cynomys, and Spermophilus, is still

more sociable and still more intelligent. They also prefer having

each one its own dwelling; but they live in big villages. That

terrible enemy of the crops of South Russia -- the souslik -- of

which some ten millions are exterminated every year by man alone,

lives in numberless colonies; and while the Russian provincial

assemblies gravely discuss the means of getting rid of this enemy

of society, it enjoys life in its thousands in the most joyful

way. Their play is so charming that no observer could refrain

from paying them a tribute of praise, and from mentioning the

melodious concerts arising from the sharp whistlings of the males

and the melancholic whistlings of the females, before -- suddenly

returning to his citizen's duties -- he begins inventing the most

diabolic means for the extermination of the little robbers. All

kinds of rapacious birds and beasts of prey having proved

powerless, the last word of science in this warfare is the

inoculation of cholera! The villages of the prairie-dogs in

America are one of the loveliest sights. As far as the eye can

embrace the prairie, it sees heaps of earth, and on each of them

a prairie-dog stands, engaged in a lively conversation with its

neighbours by means of short barkings. As soon as the approach of

man is signalled, all plunge in a moment into their dwellings;

all have disappeared as by enchantment. But if the danger is

over, the little creatures soon reappear. Whole families come out

of their galleries and indulge in play. The young ones scratch

one another, they worry one another, and display their

gracefulness while standing upright, and in the meantime the old

ones keep watch. They go visiting one another, and the beaten

footpaths which connect all their heaps testify to the frequency

of the visitations. In short, the best naturalists have written

some of their best pages in describing the associations of the

prairie-dogs of America, the marmots of the Old World, and the

polar marmots of the Alpine regions. And yet, I must make, as

regards the marmots, the same remark as I have made when speaking

of the bees. They have maintained their fighting instincts, and

these instincts reappear in captivity. But in their big

associations, in the face of free Nature, the unsociable

instincts have no opportunity to develop, and the general result

is peace and harmony.

Even such harsh animals as the rats, which continually fight

in our cellars, are sufficiently intelligent not to quarrel when

they plunder our larders, but to aid one another in their

plundering expeditions and migrations, and even to feed their

invalids. As to the beaver-rats or musk-rats of Canada, they are

extremely sociable. Audubon could not but admire "their peaceful

communities, which require only being left in peace to enjoy

happiness." Like all sociable animals, they are lively and

playful, they easily combine with other species, and they have

attained a very high degree of intellectual development. In their

villages, always disposed on the shores of lakes and rivers, they

take into account the changing level of water; their domeshaped

houses, which are built of beaten clay interwoven with reeds,

have separate corners for organic refuse, and their halls are

well carpeted at winter time; they are warm, and, nevertheless,

well ventilated. As to the beavers, which are endowed, as known,

with a most sympathetic character, their astounding dams and

villages, in which generations live and die without knowing of

any enemies but the otter and man, so wonderfully illustrate what

mutual aid can achieve for the security of the species, the

development of social habits, and the evolution of intelligence,

that they are familiar to all interested in animal life. Let me

only remark that with the beavers, the muskrats, and some other

rodents, we already find the feature which will also be

distinctive of human communities -- that is, work in common.

I pass in silence the two large families which include the

jerboa, the chinchilla, the biscacha, and the tushkan, or

underground hare of South Russia, though all these small rodents

might be taken as excellent illustrations of the pleasures

derived by animals from social life.17 Precisely, the

pleasures; because it is extremely difficult to say what brings

animals together -- the needs of mutual protection, or simply the

pleasure of feeling surrounded by their congeners. At any rate,

our common hares, which do not gather in societies for life in

common, and which are not even endowed with intense parental

feelings, cannot live without coming together for play. Dietrich

de Winckell, who is considered to be among the best acquainted

with the habits of hares, describes them as passionate players,

becoming so intoxicated by their play that a hare has been known

to take an approaching fox for a playmate.18 As to the rabbit,

it lives in societies, and its family life is entirely built upon

the image of the old patriarchal family; the young ones being

kept in absolute obedience to the father and even the

grandfather.19 And here we have the example of two very

closely-allied species which cannot bear each other -- not

because they live upon nearly the same food, as like cases are

too often explained, but most probably because the passionate,

eminently-individualist hare cannot make friends with that

placid, quiet, and submissive creature, the rabbit. Their tempers

are too widely different not to be an obstacle to friendship.

Life in societies is again the rule with the large family of

horses, which includes the wild horses and donkeys of Asia, the

zebras, the mustangs, the cimarrones of the Pampas, and the

half-wild horses of Mongolia and Siberia. They all live in

numerous associations made up of many studs, each of which

consists of a number of mares under the leadership of a male.

These numberless inhabitants of the Old and the New World, badly

organized on the whole for resisting both their numerous enemies

and the adverse conditions of climate, would soon have

disappeared from the surface of the earth were it not for their

sociable spirit. When a beast of prey approaches them, several

studs unite at once; they repulse the beast and sometimes chase

it: and neither the wolf nor the bear, not even the lion, can

capture a horse or even a zebra as long as they are not detached

from the herd. When a drought is burning the grass in the

prairies, they gather in herds of sometimes 10,000 individuals

strong, and migrate. And when a snow-storm rages in the Steppes,

each stud keeps close together, and repairs to a protected

ravine. But if confidence disappears, or the group has been

seized by panic, and disperses, the horses perish and the

survivors are found after the storm half dying from fatigue.

Union is their chief arm in the struggle for life, and man is

their chief enemy. Before his increasing numbers the ancestors of

our domestic horse (the Equus Przewalskii, so named by Polyakoff)

have preferred to retire to the wildest and least accessible

plateaus on the outskirts of Thibet, where they continue to live,

surrounded by carnivores, under a climate as bad as that of the

Arctic regions, but in a region inaccessible to man.20

Many striking illustrations of social life could be taken

from the life of the reindeer, and especially of that large

division of ruminants which might include the roebucks, the

fallow deer, the antelopes, the gazelles, the ibex, and, in fact,

the whole of the three numerous families of the Antelopides, the

Caprides, and the Ovides. Their watchfulness over the safety of

their herds against attacks of carnivores; the anxiety displayed

by all individuals in a herd of chamois as long as all of them

have not cleared a difficult passage over rocky cliffs. the

adoption of orphans; the despair of the gazelle whose mate, or

even comrade of the same sex, has been killed; the plays of the

youngsters, and many other features, could be mentioned. But

perhaps the most striking illustration of mutual support is given

by the occasional migrations of fallow deer, such as I saw once

on the Amur. When I crossed the high plateau and its border

ridge, the Great Khingan, on my way from Transbaikalia to

Merghen, and further travelled over the high prairies on my way

to the Amur, I could ascertain how thinly-peopled with fallow

deer these mostly uninhabited regions are.21 Two years later I

was travelling up the Amur, and by the end of October reached the

lower end of that picturesque gorge which the Amur pierces in the

Dousse-alin (Little Khingan) before it enters the lowlands where

it joins the Sungari. I found the Cossacks in the villages of

that gorge in the greatest excitement, because thousands and

thousands of fallow deer were crossing the Amur where it is

narrowest, in order to reach the lowlands. For several days in

succession, upon a length of some forty miles up the river, the

Cossacks were butchering the deer as they crossed the Amur, in

which already floated a good deal of ice. Thousands were killed

every day, and the exodus nevertheless continued. Like migrations

were never seen either before or since, and this one must have

been called for by an early and heavy snow-fall in the Great

Khingan, which compelled the deer to make a desperate attempt at

reaching the lowlands in the east of the Dousse mountains.

Indeed, a few days later the Dousse-alin was also buried under

snow two or three feet deep. Now, when one imagines the immense

territory (almost as big as Great Britain) from which the

scattered groups of deer must have gathered for a migration which

was undertaken under the pressure of exceptional circumstances,

and realizes the difficulties which had to be overcome before all

the deer came to the common idea of crossing the Amur further

south, where it is narrowest, one cannot but deeply admire the

amount of sociability displayed by these intelligent animals. The

fact is not the less striking if we remember that the buffaloes

of North America displayed the same powers of combination. One

saw them grazing in great numbers in the plains, but these

numbers were made up by an infinity of small groups which never

mixed together. And yet, when necessity arose, all groups,

however scattered over an immense territory, came together and

made up those immense columns, numbering hundreds of thousands of

individuals, which I mentioned on a preceding page.

I also ought to say a few words at least about the "compound

families" of the elephants, their mutual attachment, their

deliberate ways in posting sentries, and the feelings of sympathy

developed by such a life of close mutual support.22 I might

mention the sociable feelings of those disreputable creatures the

wild boars, and find a word of praise for their powers of

association in the case of an attack by a beast of prey.23 The

hippopotamus and the rhinoceros, too, would occupy a place in a

work devoted to animal sociability. Several striking pages might

be given to the sociability and mutual attachment of the seals

and the walruses; and finally, one might mention the most

excellent feelings existing among the sociable cetaceans. But I

have to say yet a few words about the societies of monkeys, which

acquire an additional interest from their being the link which

will bring us to the societies of primitive men.

It is hardly needful to say that those mammals, which stand

at the very top of the animal world and most approach man by

their structure and intelligence, are eminently sociable.

evidently we must be prepared to meet with all varieties of

character and habits in so great a division of the animal kingdom

which includes hundreds of species. But, all things considered,

it must be said that sociability, action in common, mutual

protection, and a high development of those feelings which are

the necessary outcome of social life, are characteristic of most

monkeys and apes. From the smallest species to the biggest ones,

sociability is a rule to which we know but a few exceptions. The

nocturnal apes prefer isolated life; the capuchins (Cebus

capucinus), the monos, and the howling monkeys live but in small

families; and the orang-outans have never been seen by A.R.

Wallace otherwise than either solitary or in very small groups of

three or four individuals, while the gorillas seem never to join

in bands. But all the remainder of the monkey tribe -- the

chimpanzees, the sajous, the sakis, the mandrills, the baboons,

and so on -- are sociable in the highest degree. They live in

great bands, and even join with other species than their own.

Most of them become quite unhappy when solitary. The cries of

distress of each one of the band immediately bring together the

whole of the band, and they boldly repulse the attacks of most

carnivores and birds of prey. Even eagles do not dare attack

them. They plunder our fields always in bands -- the old ones

taking care for the safety of the commonwealth. The little

tee-tees, whose childish sweet faces so much struck Humboldt,

embrace and protect one another when it rains, rolling their

tails over the necks of their shivering comrades. Several species

display the greatest solicitude for their wounded, and do not

abandon a wounded comrade during a retreat till they have

ascertained that it is dead and that they are helpless to restore

it to life. Thus James Forbes narrated in his Oriental Memoirs a

fact of such resistance in reclaiming from his hunting party the

dead body of a female monkey that one fully understands why "the

witnesses of this extraordinary scene resolved never again to

fire at one of the monkey race."24 In some species several

individuals will combine to overturn a stone in order to search

for ants' eggs under it. The hamadryas not only post sentries,

but have been seen making a chain for the transmission of the

spoil to a safe place; and their courage is well known. Brehm's

description of the regular fight which his caravan had to sustain

before the hamadryas would let it resume its journey in the

valley of the Mensa, in Abyssinia, has become classical.25 The

playfulness of the tailed apes and the mutual attachment which

reigns in the families of chimpanzees also are familiar to the

general reader. And if we find among the highest apes two

species, the orang-outan and the gorilla, which are not sociable,

we must remember that both -- limited as they are to very small

areas, the one in the heart of Africa, and the other in the two

islands of Borneo and Sumatra have all the appearance of being

the last remnants of formerly much more numerous species. The

gorilla at least seems to have been sociable in olden times, if

the apes mentioned in the Periplus really were gorillas.

We thus see, even from the above brief review, that life in

societies is no exception in the animal world; it is the rule,

the law of Nature, and it reaches its fullest development with

the higher vertebrates. Those species which live solitary, or in

small families only, are relatively few, and their numbers are

limited. Nay, it appears very probable that, apart from a few

exceptions, those birds and mammals which are not gregarious now,

were living in societies before man multiplied on the earth and

waged a permanent war against them, or destroyed the sources from

which they formerly derived food. "On ne s'associe pas pour

mourir," was the sound remark of Espinas; and Houzeau, who knew

the animal world of some parts of America when it was not yet

affected by man, wrote to the same effect.

Association is found in the animal world at all degrees of

evolution; and, according to the grand idea of Herbert Spencer,

so brilliantly developed in Perrier's Colonies Animales, colonies

are at the very origin of evolution in the animal kingdom. But,

in proportion as we ascend the scale of evolution, we see

association growing more and more conscious. It loses its purely

physical character, it ceases to be simply instinctive, it

becomes reasoned. With the higher vertebrates it is periodical,

or is resorted to for the satisfaction of a given want --

propagation of the species, migration, hunting, or mutual

defence. It even becomes occasional, when birds associate against

a robber, or mammals combine, under the pressure of exceptional

circumstances, to emigrate. In this last case, it becomes a

voluntary deviation from habitual moods of life. The combination

sometimes appears in two or more degrees -- the family first,

then the group, and finally the association of groups, habitually

scattered, but uniting in case of need, as we saw it with the

bisons and other ruminants. It also takes higher forms,

guaranteeing more independence to the individual without

depriving it of the benefits of social life. With most rodents

the individual has its own dwelling, which it can retire to when

it prefers being left alone; but the dwellings are laid out in

villages and cities, so as to guarantee to all inhabitants the

benefits and joys of social life. And finally, in several

species, such as rats, marmots, hares, etc., sociable life is

maintained notwithstanding the quarrelsome or otherwise egotistic

inclinations of the isolated individual. Thus it is not imposed,

as is the case with ants and bees, by the very physiological

structure of the individuals; it is cultivated for the benefits

of mutual aid, or for the sake of its pleasures. And this, of

course, appears with all possible gradations and with the

greatest variety of individual and specific characters -- the

very variety of aspects taken by social life being a consequence,

and for us a further proof, of its generality.26

Sociability -- that is, the need of the animal of associating

with its like -- the love of society for society's sake, combined

with the "joy of life," only now begins to receive due attention

from the zoologists.27 We know at the present time that all

animals, beginning with the ants, going on to the birds, and

ending with the highest mammals, are fond of plays, wrestling,

running after each other, trying to capture each other, teasing

each other, and so on. And while many plays are, so to speak, a

school for the proper behaviour of the young in mature life,

there are others, which, apart from their utilitarian purposes,

are, together with dancing and singing, mere manifestations of an

excess of forces -- "the joy of life," and a desire to

communicate in some way or another with other individuals of the

same or of other species -- in short, a manifestation of

sociability proper, which is a distinctive feature of all the

animal world.28 Whether the feeling be fear, experienced at

the appearance of a bird of prey, or "a fit of gladness" which

bursts out when the animals are in good health and especially

when young, or merely the desire of giving play to an excess of

impressions and of vital power -- the necessity of communicating

impressions, of playing, of chattering, or of simply feeling the

proximity of other kindred living beings pervades Nature, and is,

as much as any other physiological function, a distinctive

feature of life and impressionability. This need takes a higher

development and attains a more beautiful expression in mammals,

especially amidst their young, and still more among the birds;

but it pervades all Nature, and has been fully observed by the

best naturalists, including Pierre Huber, even amongst the ants,

and it is evidently the same instinct which brings together the

big columns of butterflies which have been referred to already.

The habit of coming together for dancing and of decorating

the places where the birds habitually perform their dances is, of

course, well known from the pages that Darwin gave to this

subject in The Descent of Man (ch. xiii). Visitors of the London

Zoological Gardens also know the bower of the satin bower-bird.

But this habit of dancing seems to be much more widely spread

than was formerly believed, and Mr. W. Hudson gives in his

master-work on La Plata the most interesting description, which

must be read in the original, of complicated dances, performed by

quite a number of birds: rails, jacanas, lapwings, and so on.

The habit of singing in concert, which exists in several

species of birds, belongs to the same category of social

instincts. It is most strikingly developed with the chakar

(Chauna chavarris), to which the English have given the most

unimaginative misnomer of "crested screamer." These birds

sometimes assemble in immense flocks, and in such cases they

frequently sing all in concert. W.H. Hudson found them once in

countless numbers, ranged all round a pampas lake in well-defined

flocks, of about 500 birds in each flock.

"Presently," he writes, "one flock near me began singing, and

continued their powerful chant for three or four minutes; when

they ceased the next flock took up the strains, and after it the

next, and so on, until once more the notes of the flocks on the

opposite shore came floating strong and clear across the water --

then passed away, growing fainter and fainter, until once more

the sound approached me travelling round to my side again."

On another occasion the same writer saw a whole plain covered

with an endless flock of chakars, not in close order, but

scattered in pairs and small groups. About nine o'clock in the

evening, "suddenly the entire multitude of birds covering the

marsh for miles around burst forth in a tremendous evening

song.... It was a concert well worth riding a hundred miles to

hear."29 It may be added that like all sociable animals, the

chakar easily becomes tame and grows very attached to man." They

are mild-tempered birds, and very rarely quarrel" -- we are told

-- although they are well provided with formidable weapons. Life

in societies renders these weapons useless.

That life in societies is the most powerful weapon in the

struggle for life, taken in its widest sense, has been

illustrated by several examples on the foregoing pages, and could

be illustrated by any amount of evidence, if further evidence

were required. Life in societies enables the feeblest insects,

the feeblest birds, and the feeblest mammals to resist, or to

protect themselves from, the most terrible birds and beasts of

prey; it permits longevity; it enables the species to rear its

progeny with the least waste of energy and to maintain its

numbers albeit a very slow birth-rate; it enables the gregarious

animals to migrate in search of new abodes. Therefore, while

fully admitting that force, swiftness, protective colours,

cunningness, and endurance to hunger and cold, which are

mentioned by Darwin and Wallace, are so many qualities making the

individual, or the species, the fittest under certain

circumstances, we maintain that under any circumstances

sociability is the greatest advantage in the struggle for life.

Those species which willingly or unwillingly abandon it are

doomed to decay; while those animals which know best how to

combine, have the greatest chances of survival and of further

evolution, although they may be inferior to others in each of the

faculties enumerated by Darwin and Wallace, save the intellectual

faculty. The highest vertebrates, and especially mankind, are the

best proof of this assertion. As to the intellectual faculty,

while every Darwinist will agree with Darwin that it is the most

powerful arm in the struggle for life, and the most powerful

factor of further evolution, he also will admit that intelligence

is an eminently social faculty. Language, imitation, and

accumulated experience are so many elements of growing

intelligence of which the unsociable animal is deprived.

Therefore we find, at the top of each class of animals, the ants,

the parrots, and the monkeys, all combining the greatest

sociability with the highest development of intelligence. The

fittest are thus the most sociable animals, and sociability

appears as the chief factor of evolution, both directly, by

securing the well-being of the species while diminishing the

waste of energy, and indirectly, by favouring the growth of


Moreover, it is evident that life in societies would be

utterly impossible without a corresponding development of social

feelings, and, especially, of a certain collective sense of

justice growing to become a habit. If every individual were

constantly abusing its personal advantages without the others

interfering in favour of the wronged, no society -- life would be

possible. And feelings of justice develop, more or less, with all

gregarious animals. Whatever the distance from which the swallows

or the cranes come, each one returns to the nest it has built or

repaired last year. If a lazy sparrow intends appropriating the

nest which a comrade is building, or even steals from it a few

sprays of straw, the group interferes against the lazy comrade;

and it is evident that without such interference being the rule,

no nesting associations of birds could exist. Separate groups of

penguins have separate resting-places and separate fishing

abodes, and do not fight for them. The droves of cattle in

Australia have particular spots to which each group repairs to

rest, and from which it never deviates; and so on.30 We have

any numbers of direct observations of the peace that prevails in

the nesting associations of birds, the villages of the rodents,

and the herds of grass-eaters; while, on the other side, we know

of few sociable animals which so continually quarrel as the rats

in our cellars do, or as the morses, which fight for the

possession of a sunny place on the shore. Sociability thus puts a

limit to physical struggle, and leaves room for the development

of better moral feelings. The high development of parental love

in all classes of animals, even with lions and tigers, is

generally known. As to the young birds and mammals whom we

continually see associating, sympathy -- not love -- attains a

further development in their associations. Leaving aside the

really touching facts of mutual attachment and compassion which

have been recorded as regards domesticated animals and with

animals kept in captivity, we have a number of well certified

facts of compassion between wild animals at liberty. Max Perty

and L. B?chner have given a number of such facts.31 J.C.

Wood's narrative of a weasel which came to pick up and to carry

away an injured comrade enjoys a well-merited popularity.32 So

also the observation of Captain Stansbury on his journey to Utah

which is quoted by Darwin; he saw a blind pelican which was fed,

and well fed, by other pelicans upon fishes which had to be

brought from a distance of thirty miles.33 And when a herd of

vicunas was hotly pursued by hunters, H.A. Weddell saw more than

once during his journey to Bolivia and Peru, the strong males

covering the retreat of the herd and lagging behind in order to

protect the retreat. As to facts of compassion with wounded

comrades, they are continually mentioned by all field zoologists.

Such facts are quite natural. Compassion is a necessary outcome

of social life. But compassion also means a considerable advance

in general intelligence and sensibility. It is the first step

towards the development of higher moral sentiments. It is, in its

turn, a powerful factor of further evolution.

If the views developed on the preceding pages are correct,

the question necessarily arises, in how far are they consistent

with the theory of struggle for life as it has been developed by

Darwin, Wallace, and their followers? and I will now briefly

answer this important question. First of all, no naturalist will

doubt that the idea of a struggle for life carried on through

organic nature is the greatest generalization of our century.

Life is struggle; and in that struggle the fittest survive. But

the answers to the questions, "By which arms is this struggle

chiefly carried on?" and "Who are the fittest in the struggle?"

will widely differ according to the importance given to the two

different aspects of the struggle: the direct one, for food and

safety among separate individuals, and the struggle which Darwin

described as "metaphorical" -- the struggle, very often

collective, against adverse circumstances. No one will deny that

there is, within each species, a certain amount of real

competition for food -- at least, at certain periods. But the

question is, whether competition is carried on to the extent

admitted by Darwin, or even by Wallace; and whether this

competition has played, in the evolution of the animal kingdom,

the part assigned to it.

The idea which permeates Darwin's work is certainly one of

real competition going on within each animal group for food,

safety, and possibility of leaving an offspring. He often speaks

of regions being stocked with animal life to their full capacity,

and from that overstocking he infers the necessity of

competition. But when we look in his work for real proofs of that

competition, we must confess that we do not find them

sufficiently convincing. If we refer to the paragraph entitled

"Struggle for Life most severe between Individuals and Varieties

of the same Species," we find in it none of that wealth of proofs

and illustrations which we are accustomed to find in whatever

Darwin wrote. The struggle between individuals of the same

species is not illustrated under that heading by even one single

instance: it is taken as granted; and the competition between

closely-allied animal species is illustrated by but five

examples, out of which one, at least (relating to the two species

of thrushes), now proves to be doubtful.34 But when we look

for more details in order to ascertain how far the decrease of

one species was really occasioned by the increase of the other

species, Darwin, with his usual fairness, tells us:

"We can dimly see why the competition should be most severe

between allied forms which fill nearly the same place in nature;

but probably in no case could we precisely say why one species

has been victorious over another in the great battle of life."

As to Wallace, who quotes the same facts under a

slightly-modified heading ("Struggle for Life between

closely-allied Animals and Plants often most severe"), he makes

the following remark (italics are mine), which gives quite

another aspect to the facts above quoted. He says:

"In some cases, no doubt, there is actual war between the

two, the stronger killing the weaker. but this is by no means

necessary, and there may be cases in which the weaker species,

physically, may prevail by its power of more rapid

multiplication, its better withstanding vicissitudes of climate,

or its greater cunning in escaping the attacks of common


In such cases what is described as competition may be no

competition at all. One species succumbs, not because it is

exterminated or starved out by the other species, but because it

does not well accommodate itself to new conditions, which the

other does. The term "struggle for life" is again used in its

metaphorical sense, and may have no other. As to the real

competition between individuals of the same species, which is

illustrated in another place by the cattle of South America

during a period of drought, its value is impaired by its being

taken from among domesticated animals. Bisons emigrate in like

circumstances in order to avoid competition. However severe the

struggle between plants -- and this is amply proved -- we cannot

but repeat Wallace's remark to the effect that "plants live where

they can," while animals have, to a great extent, the power of

choice of their abode. So that we again are asking ourselves, To

what extent does competition really exist within each animal

species? Upon what is the assumption based? The same remark must

be made concerning the indirect argument in favour of a severe

competition and struggle for life within each species, which may

be derived from the "extermination of transitional varieties," so

often mentioned by Darwin. It is known that for a long time

Darwin was worried by the difficulty which he saw in the absence

of a long chain of intermediate forms between closely-allied

species, and that he found the solution of this difficulty in the

supposed extermination of the intermediate forms.35 However,

an attentive reading of the different chapters in which Darwin

and Wallace speak of this subject soon brings one to the

conclusion that the word "extermination" does not mean real

extermination; the same remark which Darwin made concerning his

expression: "struggle for existence," evidently applies to the

word "extermination" as well. It can by no means be understood in

its direct sense, but must be taken "in its metaphoric sense." If

we start from the supposition that a given area is stocked with

animals to its fullest capacity, and that a keen competition for

the sheer means of existence is consequently going on between all

the inhabitants -- each animal being compelled to fight against

all its congeners in order to get its daily food -- then the

appearance of a new and successful variety would certainly mean

in many cases (though not always) the appearance of individuals

which are enabled to seize more than their fair share of the

means of existence; and the result would be that those

individuals would starve both the parental form which does not

possess the new variation and the intermediate forms which do not

possess it in the same degree. It may be that at the outset,

Darwin understood the appearance of new varieties under this

aspect; at least, the frequent use of the word "extermination"

conveys such an impression. But both he and Wallace knew Nature

too well not to perceive that this is by no means the only

possible and necessary course of affairs.

If the physical and the biological conditions of a given

area, the extension of the area occupied by a given species, and

the habits of all the members of the latter remained unchanged --

then the sudden appearance of a new variety might mean the

starving out and the extermination of all the individuals which

were not endowed in a sufficient degree with the new feature by

which the new variety is characterized. But such a combination of

conditions is precisely what we do not see in Nature. Each

species is continually tending to enlarge its abode; migration to

new abodes is the rule with the slow snail, as with the swift

bird; physical changes are continually going on in every given

area; and new varieties among animals consist in an immense

number of cases-perhaps in the majority -- not in the growth of

new weapons for snatching the food from the mouth of its

congeners -- food is only one out of a hundred of various

conditions of existence -- but, as Wallace himself shows in a

charming paragraph on the "divergence of characters" (Darwinism,

p. 107), in forming new habits, moving to new abodes, and taking

to new sorts of food. In all such cases there will be no

extermination, even no competition -- the new adaptation being a

relief from competition, if it ever existed; and yet there will

be, after a time, an absence of intermediate links, in

consequence of a mere survival of those which are best fitted for

the new conditions -- as surely as under the hypothesis of

extermination of the parental form. It hardly need be added that

if we admit, with Spencer, all the Lamarckians, and Darwin

himself, the modifying influence of the surroundings upon the

species, there remains still less necessity for the extermination

of the intermediate forms.

The importance of migration and of the consequent isolation

of groups of animals, for the origin of new varieties and

ultimately of new species, which was indicated by Moritz Wagner,

was fully recognized by Darwin himself. Consequent researches

have only accentuated the importance of this factor, and they

have shown how the largeness of the area occupied by a given

species -- which Darwin considered with full reason so important

for the appearance of new varieties -- can be combined with the

isolation of parts of the species, in consequence of local

geological changes, or of local barriers. It would be impossible

to enter here into the discussion of this wide question, but a

few remarks will do to illustrate the combined action of these

agencies. It is known that portions of a given species will often

take to a new sort of food. The squirrels, for instance, when

there is a scarcity of cones in the larch forests, remove to the

fir-tree forests, and this change of food has certain well-known

physiological effects on the squirrels. If this change of habits

does not last -- if next year the cones are again plentiful in

the dark larch woods -- no new variety of squirrels will

evidently arise from this cause. But if part of the wide area

occupied by the squirrels begins to have its physical characters

altered -- in consequence of, let us say, a milder climate or

desiccation, which both bring about an increase of the pine

forests in proportion to the larch woods -- and if some other

conditions concur to induce the squirrels to dwell on the

outskirts of the desiccating region -- we shall have then a new

variety, i.e. an incipient new species of squirrels, without

there having been anything that would deserve the name of

extermination among the squirrels. A larger proportion of

squirrels of the new, better adapted variety would survive every

year, and the intermediate links would die in the course of time,

without having been starved out by Malthusian competitors. This

is exactly what we see going on during the great physical changes

which are accomplished over large areas in Central Asia, owing to

the desiccation which is going on there since the glacial period.

To take another example, it has been proved by geologists

that the present wild horse (Equus Przewalski) has slowly been

evolved during the later parts of the Tertiary and the Quaternary

period, but that during this succession of ages its ancestors

were not confined to some given, limited area of the globe. They

wandered over both the Old and New World, returning, in all

probability, after a time to the pastures which they had, in the

course of their migrations, formerly left.36 Consequently, if

we do not find now, in Asia, all the intermediate links between

the present wild horse and its Asiatic Post-Tertiary ancestors,

this does not mean at all that the intermediate links have been

exterminated. No such extermination has ever taken place. No

exceptional mortality may even have occurred among the ancestral

species: the individuals which belonged to intermediate varieties

and species have died in the usual course of events -- often

amidst plentiful food, and their remains were buried all over the


In short, if we carefully consider this matter, and,

carefully re-read what Darwin himself wrote upon this subject, we

see that if the word "extermination" be used at all in connection

with transitional varieties, it must be used in its metaphoric

sense. As to "competition," this expression, too, is continually

used by Darwin (see, for instance, the paragraph "On Extinction")

as an image, or as a way-of-speaking, rather than with the

intention of conveying the idea of a real competition between two

portions of the same species for the means of existence. At any

rate, the absence of intermediate forms is no argument in favour

of it.

In reality, the chief argument in favour of a keen

competition for the means of existence continually going on

within every animal species is -- to use Professor Geddes'

expression -- the "arithmetical argument" borrowed from Malthus.

But this argument does not prove it at all. We might as well

take a number of villages in South-East Russia, the inhabitants

of which enjoy plenty of food, but have no sanitary accommodation

of any kind; and seeing that for the last eighty years the

birth-rate was sixty in the thousand, while the population is now

what it was eighty years ago, we might conclude that there has

been a terrible competition between the inhabitants. But the

truth is that from year to year the population remained

stationary, for the simple reason that one-third of the new-born

died before reaching their sixth month of life; one-half died

within the next four years, and out of each hundred born, only

seventeen or so reached the age of twenty. The new-comers went

away before having grown to be competitors. It is evident that if

such is the case with men, it is still more the case with

animals. In the feathered world the destruction of the eggs goes

on on such a tremendous scale that eggs are the chief food of

several species in the early summer; not to, say a word of the

storms, the inundations which destroy nests by the million in

America, and the sudden changes of weather which are fatal to the

young mammals. Each storm, each inundation, each visit of a rat

to a bird's nest, each sudden change of temperature, take away

those competitors which appear so terrible in theory.

As to the facts of an extremely rapid increase of horses and

cattle in America, of pigs and rabbits in New Zealand, and even

of wild animals imported from Europe (where their numbers are

kept down by man, not by competition), they rather seem opposed

to the theory of over-population. If horses and cattle could so

rapidly multiply in America, it simply proved that, however

numberless the buffaloes and other ruminants were at that time in

the New World, its grass-eating population was far below what the

prairies could maintain. If millions of intruders have found

plenty of food without starving out the former population of the

prairies, we must rather conclude that the Europeans found a want

of grass-eaters in America, not an excess. And we have good

reasons to believe that want of animal population is the natural

state of things all over the world, with but a few temporary

exceptions to the rule. The actual numbers of animals in a given

region are determined, not by the highest feeding capacity of the

region, but by what it is every year under the most unfavourable

conditions. So that, for that reason alone, competition hardly

can be a normal condition. but other causes intervene as well to

cut, down the animal population below even that low standard. If

we take the horses and cattle which are grazing all the winter

through in the Steppes of Transbaikalia, we find them very lean

and exhausted at the end of the winter. But they grow exhausted

not because there is not enough food for all of them -- the grass

buried under a thin sheet of snow is everywhere in abundance --

but because of the difficulty of getting it from beneath the

snow, and this difficulty is the same for all horses alike.

Besides, days of glazed frost are common in early spring, and if

several such days come in succession the horses grow still more

exhausted. But then comes a snow-storm, which compels the already

weakened animals to remain without any food for several days, and

very great numbers of them die. The losses during the spring are

so severe that if the season has been more inclement than usual

they are even not repaired by the new breeds -- the more so as

all horses are exhausted, and the young foals are born in a

weaker condition. The numbers of horses and cattle thus always

remain beneath what they otherwise might be; all the year round

there is food for five or ten times as many animals, and yet

their population increases extremely slowly. But as soon as the

Buriate owner makes ever so small a provision of hay in the

steppe, and throws it open during days of glazed frost, or

heavier snow-fall, he immediately sees the increase of his herd.

Almost all free grass-eating animals and many rodents in Asia and

America being in very much the same conditions, we can safely say

that their numbers are not kept down by competition; that at no

time of the year they can struggle for food, and that if they

never reach anything approaching to over-population, the cause is

in the climate, not in competition.

The importance of natural checks to over-multiplication, and

especially their bearing upon the competition hypothesis, seems

never to have been taken into due account The checks, or rather

some of them, are mentioned, but their action is seldom studied

in detail. However, if we compare the action of the natural

checks with that of competition, we must recognize at once that

the latter sustains no comparison whatever with the other checks.

Thus, Mr. Bates mentions the really astounding numbers of winged

ants which are destroyed during their exodus. The dead or

half-dead bodies of the formica de fuego (Myrmica saevissima)

which had been blown into the river during a gale "were heaped in

a line an inch or two in height and breadth, the line continuing

without interruption for miles at the edge of the water."37

Myriads of ants are thus destroyed amidst a nature which might

support a hundred times as many ants as are actually living. Dr.

Altum, a German forester, who wrote a very interesting book about

animals injurious to our forests, also gives many facts showing

the immense importance of natural checks. He says, that a

succession of gales or cold and damp weather during the exodus of

the pine-moth (Bombyx pini) destroy it to incredible amounts, and

during the spring of 1871 all these moths disappeared at once,

probably killed by a succession of cold nights.38 Many like

examples relative to various insects could be quoted from various

parts of Europe. Dr. Altum also mentions the bird-enemies of the

pine-moth, and the immense amount of its eggs destroyed by foxes;

but he adds that the parasitic fungi which periodically infest it

are a far more terrible enemy than any bird, because they destroy

the moth over very large areas at once. As to various species of

mice (Mus sylvaticus, Arvicola arvalis, and A. agrestis), the

same author gives a long list of their enemies, but he remarks:

"However, the most terrible enemies of mice are not other

animals, but such sudden changes of weather as occur almost every

year." Alternations of frost and warm weather destroy them in

numberless quantities; "one single sudden change can reduce

thousands of mice to the number of a few individuals." On the

other side, a warm winter, or a winter which gradually steps in,

make them multiply in menacing proportions, notwithstanding every

enemy; such was the case in 1876 and 1877.39 Competition, in

the case of mice, thus appears a quite trifling factor when

compared with weather. Other facts to the same effect are also

given as regards squirrels.

As to birds, it is well known how they suffer from sudden

changes of weather. Late snow-storms are as destructive of

bird-life on the English moors, as they are in Siberia; and Ch.

Dixon saw the red grouse so pressed during some exceptionally

severe winters, that they quitted the moors in numbers, "and we

have then known them actually to be taken in the streets of

Sheffield. Persistent wet," he adds, "is almost as fatal to


On the other side, the contagious diseases which continually

visit most animal species destroy them in such numbers that the

losses often cannot be repaired for many years, even with the

most rapidly-multiply ing animals. Thus, some sixty years ago,

the sousliks suddenly disappeared in the neighbourhood of

Sarepta, in South-Eastern Russia, in consequence of some

epidemics; and for years no sousliks were seen in that

neighbourhood. It took many years before they became as numerous

as they formerly were.40 Like facts, all tending to reduce the

importance given to competition, could be produced in

numbers.41 Of course, it might be replied, in Darwin's words,

that nevertheless each organic being "at some period of its life,

during some season of the year, during each generation or at

intervals, has to struggle for life and to suffer great

destruction," and that the fittest survive during such periods of

hard struggle for life. But if the evolution of the animal world

were based exclusively, or even chiefly, upon the survival of the

fittest during periods of calamities; if natural selection were

limited in its action to periods of exceptional drought, or

sudden changes of temperature, or inundations, retrogression

would be the rule in the animal world. Those who survive a

famine, or a severe epidemic of cholera, or small-pox, or

diphtheria, such as we see them in uncivilized countries, are

neither the strongest, nor the healthiest, nor the most

intelligent. No progress could be based on those survivals -- the

less so as all survivors usually come out of the ordeal with an

impaired health, like the Transbaikalian horses just mentioned,

or the Arctic crews, or the garrison of a fortress which has been

compelled to live for a few months on half rations, and comes out

of its experience with a broken health, and subsequently shows a

quite abnormal mortality. All that natural selection can do in

times of calamities is to spare the individuals endowed with the

greatest endurance for privations of all kinds. So it does among

the Siberian horses and cattle. They are enduring; they can feed

upon the Polar birch in case of need; they resist cold and

hunger. But no Siberian horse is capable of carrying half the

weight which a European horse carries with ease; no Siberian cow

gives half the amount of milk given by a Jersey cow, and no

natives of uncivilized countries can bear a comparison with

Europeans. They may better endure hunger and cold, but their

physical force is very far below that of a well-fed European, and

their intellectual progress is despairingly slow. "Evil cannot be

productive of good," as Tchernyshevsky wrote in a remarkable

essay upon Darwinism.42

Happily enough, competition is not the rule either in the

animal world or in mankind. It is limited among animals to

exceptional periods, and natural selection finds better fields

for its activity. Better conditions are created by the

elimination of competition by means of mutual aid and mutual

Support.43 In the great struggle for life -- for the greatest

possible fulness and intensity of life with the least waste of

energy -- natural selection continually seeks out the ways

precisely for avoiding competition as much as possible. The ants

combine in nests and nations; they pile up their stores, they

rear their cattle -- and thus avoid competition; and natural

selection picks out of the ants' family the species which know

best how to avoid competition, with its unavoidably deleterious

consequences. Most of our birds slowly move southwards as the

winter comes, or gather in numberless societies and undertake

long journeys -- and thus avoid competition. Many rodents fall

asleep when the time comes that competition should set in; while

other rodents store food for the winter, and gather in large

villages for obtaining the necessary protection when at work. The

reindeer, when the lichens are dry in the interior of the

continent, migrate towards the sea. Buffaloes cross an immense

continent in order to find plenty of food. And the beavers, when

they grow numerous on a river, divide into two parties, and go,

the old ones down the river, and the young ones up the river and

avoid competition. And when animals can neither fall asleep, nor

migrate, nor lay in stores, nor themselves grow their food like

the ants, they do what the titmouse does, and what Wallace

(Darwinism, ch. v) has so charmingly described: they resort to

new kinds of food -- and thus, again, avoid competition.44

"Don't compete! -- competition is always injurious to the

species, and you have plenty of resources to avoid it!" That is

the tendency of nature, not always realized in full, but always

present. That is the watchword which comes to us from the bush,

the forest, the river, the ocean. "Therefore combine -- practise

mutual aid! That is the surest means for giving to each and to

all the greatest safety, the best guarantee of existence and

progress, bodily, intellectual, and moral." That is what Nature

teaches us; and that is what all those animals which have

attained the highest position in their respective classes have

done. That is also what man -- the most primitive man -- has been

doing; and that is why man has reached the position upon which we

stand now, as we shall see in the subsequent chapters devoted to

mutual aid in human societies.

1 Syevettsoff's Periodical Phenomena, p. 251.
2 Seyfferlitz, quoted by Brehm, iv. 760.
3 The Arctic Voyages of A.E. Nordenskj?ld, London, 1879, p. 135.
See also the powerful description of the St. Kilda islands by Mr.
Dixon (quoted by Seebohm), and nearly all books of Arctic travel.
5 See Appendix III.
5 Elliot Cou?s, in Bulletin U.S. Geol. Survey of Territories,
iv. No. 7, pp. 556, 579, etc. Among the gulls (Larus argentatus),
Polyakoff saw on a marsh in Northern Russia, that the nesting
grounds of a very great number of these birds were always
patrolled by one male, which warned the colony of the approach of
danger. All birds rose in such case and attacked the enemy with
great vigour. The females, which had five or six nests together
On each knoll of the marsh, kept a certain order in leaving their
nests in search of food. The fledglings, which otherwise are
extremely unprotected and easily become the prey of the rapacious
birds, were never left alone ("Family Habits among the Aquatic
Birds," in Proceedings of the Zool. Section of St. Petersburg
Soc. of Nat., Dec. 17, 1874).
6 Brehm Father, quoted by A. Brehm, iv. 34 seq. See also White's
Natural History of Selborne, Letter XI.
7 Dr. Cou?s, Birds of Dakota and Montana, in Bulletin U.S.
Survey of Territories, iv. No. 7.
8 It has often been intimated that larger birds may occasionally
transport some of the smaller birds when they cross together the
Mediterranean, but the fact still remains doubtful. On the other
side, it is certain that some smaller birds join the bigger ones
for migration. The fact has been noticed several times, and it
was recently confirmed by L. Buxbaum at Raunheim. He saw several
parties of cranes which had larks flying in the midst and on both
sides of their migratory columns (Der zoologische Garten, 1886,
p. 133).
9 H. Seebohm and Ch. Dixon both mention this habit.
10 The fact is well known to every field-naturalist, and with
reference to England several examples may be found in Charles
Dixon's Among the Birds in Northern Shires. The chaffinches
arrive during winter in vast flocks; and about the same time,
i.e. in November, come flocks of bramblings; redwings also
frequent the same places "in similar large companies," and so on
(pp. 165, 166).
11 S.W. Baker, Wild Beasts, etc., vol. i. p. 316.
12 Tschudi, Thierleben der Alpenwelt, p. 404.
13 Houzeau's Etudes, ii. 463.
14 For their hunting associations see Sir E. Tennant's Natural
History of Ceylon, quoted in Romanes's Animal Intelligence, p.
15 See Emil H?ter's letter in L. B?chner's Liebe.
16 See Appendix IV.
17 With regard to the viscacha it is very interesting to note
that these highly-sociable little animals not only live peaceably
together in each village, but that whole villages visit each
other at nights. Sociability is thus extended to the whole
species -- not only to a given society, or to a nation, as we saw
it with the ants. When the farmer destroys a viscacha-burrow, and
buries the inhabitants under a heap of earth, other viscachas --
we are told by Hudson -- "come from a distance to dig out those
that are buried alive" (l.c., p. 311). This is a widely-known
fact in La Plata, verified by the author.
18 Handbuch f?r J?ger und Jagdberechtigte, quoted by Brehm, ii.
19 Buffon's Histoire Naturelle.
20 In connection with the horses it is worthy of notice that the
quagga zebra, which never comes together with the dauw zebra,
nevertheless lives on excellent terms, not only with ostriches,
which are very good sentries, but also with gazelles, several
species of antelopes, and gnus. We thus have a case of mutual
dislike between the quagga and the dauw which cannot be explained
by competition for food. The fact that the quagga lives together
with ruminants feeding on the same grass as itself excludes that
hypothesis, and we must look for some incompatibility of
character, as in the case of the hare and the rabbit. Cf., among
others, Clive Phillips-Wolley's Big Game Shooting (Badminton
Library), which contains excellent illustrations of various
species living together in East Africa.
21 Our Tungus hunter, who was going to marry, and therefore was
prompted by the desire of getting as many furs as he possibly
could, was beating the hill-sides all day long on horseback in
search of deer. His efforts were not rewarded by even so much as
one fallow deer killed every day; and he was an excellent hunter.
22 According to Samuel W. Baker, elephants combine in larger
groups than the "compound family." "I have frequently observed,"
he wrote, "in the portion of Ceylon known as the Park Country,
the tracks of elephants in great numbers which have evidently
been considerable herds that have joined together in a general
retreat from a ground which they considered insecure" (Wild
Beasts and their Ways, vol. i. p. 102).
23 Pigs, attacked by wolves, do the same (Hudson, l.c.).
24 Romanes's Animal Intelligence, p. 472.
25 Brehm, i. 82; Darwin's Descent of Man, ch. iii. The Kozloff
expedition of 1899-1901 have also had to sustain in Northern
Thibet a similar fight.
26 The more strange was it to read in the previously-mentioned
article by Huxley the following paraphrase of a well-known
sentence of Rousseau: "The first men who substituted mutual peace
for that of mutual war -- whatever the motive which impelled them
to take that step -- created society" (Nineteenth Century, Feb.
1888, p. 165). Society has not been created by man; it is
anterior to man.
27 Such monographs as the chapter on "Music and Dancing in
Nature" which we have in Hudson's Naturalist on the La Plata, and
Carl Gross' Play of Animals, have already thrown a considerable
light upon an instinct which is absolutely universal in Nature.
28 Not only numerous species of birds possess the habit of
assembling together -- in many cases always at the same spot --
to indulge in antics and dancing performances, but W.H. Hudson's
experience is that nearly all mammals and birds ("probably there
are really no exceptions") indulge frequently in more or less
regular or set performances with or without sound, or composed of
sound exclusively (p. 264).
29 For the choruses of monkeys, see Brehm.
30 Haygarth, Bush Life in Australia, p. 58.
31 To quote but a few instances, a wounded badger was carried
away by another badger suddenly appearing on the scene; rats have
been seen feeding a blind couple (Seelenleben der Thiere, p. 64
seq.). Brehm himself saw two crows feeding in a hollow tree a
third crow which was wounded; its wound was several weeks old
(Hausfreund, 1874, 715; B?chner's Liebe, 203). Mr. Blyth saw
Indian crows feeding two or three blind comrades; and so on.
32 Man and Beast, p. 344.
33 L.H. Morgan, The American Beaver, 1868, p. 272; Descent of
Man, ch. iv.
34 One species of swallow is said to have caused the decrease of
another swallow species in North America; the recent increase of
the missel-thrush in Scotland has caused the decrease of the
song.thrush; the brown rat has taken the place of the black rat
in Europe; in Russia the small cockroach has everywhere driven
before it its greater congener; and in Australia the imported
hive-bee is rapidly exterminating the small stingless bee. Two
other cases, but relative to domesticated animals, are mentioned
in the preceding paragraph. While recalling these same facts,
A.R. Wallace remarks in a footnote relative to the Scottish
thrushes: "Prof. A. Newton, however, informs me that these
species do not interfere in the way here stated" (Darwinism, p.
34). As to the brown rat, it is known that, owing to its
amphibian habits, it usually stays in the lower parts of human
dwellings (low cellars, sewers, etc.), as also on the banks of
canals and rivers; it also undertakes distant migrations in
numberless bands. The black rat, on the contrary, prefers staying
in our dwellings themselves, under the floor, as well as in our
stables and barns. It thus is much more exposed to be
exterminated by man; and we cannot maintain, with any approach to
certainty, that the black rat is being either exterminated or
starved out by the brown rat and not by man.
35 "But it may be urged that when several closely-allied species
inhabit the same territory, we surely ought to find at the
present time many transitional forms.... By my theory these
allied species are descended from a common parent; and during the
process of modification, each has become adapted to the
conditions of life of its own region, and has supplanted and
exterminated its original parent-form and all the transitional
varieties between its past and present states" (Origin of
Species, 6th ed. p. 134); also p. 137, 296 (all paragraph "On
36 According to Madame Marie Pavloff, who has made a special
study of this subject, they migrated from Asia to Africa, stayed
there some time, and returned next to Asia. Whether this double
migration be confirmed or not, the fact of a former extension of
the ancestor of our horse over Asia, Africa, and America is
settled beyond doubt.
37 The Naturalist on the River Amazons, ii. 85, 95.
38 Dr. B. Altum, Waldbesch?digungen durch Thiere und Gegenmittel
(Berlin, 1889), pp. 207 seq.
39 Dr. B. Altum, ut supra, pp. 13 and 187.
40 A. Becker in the Bulletin de la Soci?t? des Naturalistes de
Moscou, 1889, p. 625.
41 See Appendix V.
42 Russkaya Mysl, Sept. 1888: "The Theory of Beneficency of
Struggle for Life, being a Preface to various Treatises on
Botanics, Zoology, and Human Life," by an Old Transformist.
43 "One of the most frequent modes in which Natural Selection
acts is, by adapting some individuals of a species to a somewhat
different mode of life, whereby they are able to seize
unappropriated places in Nature" (Origin of Species, p. 145) --
in other words, to avoid competition.
44 See Appendix VI.