Life expectancy

The Duration of Life

With your permission, I will bring before you to-day some thoughts upon the subject of the duration of life. I can scarcely do better than begin with the simple but significant words of Johannes Müller: ‘Organic bodies are perishable; while life maintains the appearance of immortality in the constant succession of similar individuals, the individuals themselves pass away.'

Omitting, for the time being, any discussion as to the precise accuracy of this statement, it is at any rate obvious that the life of an individual has its natural limit, at least among those animals and plants which are met with in every-day life. But it is equally obvious that the limits are very differently placed in the various species of animals and plants. These differences are so manifest that they have given rise to popular sayings. Thus Jacob Grimm mentions an old German saying, ‘A wren lives three years, a dog three times as long as a wren, a horse three times as long as a dog, and a man three times as long as a horse, that is eighty-one years. A donkey attains three times the age of a man, a wild goose three times that of a donkey, a crow three times that of a wild goose, a deer three times that of a crow, and an oak three times the age of a deer.'

If this be true a deer would live 6000 years, and an oak nearly 20,000 years. The saying is certainly not founded upon exact observation, but it becomes true if looked upon as a general statement that the duration of life is very different in different organisms.

The question now arises as to the causes of these great differences. How is it that individuals are endowed with the power of living long in such very various degrees?

One is at first tempted to seek the answer by an appeal to the differences in morphological and chemical structure which separate species from one another. In fact all attempts to throw light upon the subject which have been made up to the present time lie in this direction.

All these explanations are nevertheless insufficient. In a certain sense it is true that the causes of the duration of life must be contained in the organism itself, and cannot be found in any of its external conditions or circumstances. But structure and chemical composition—in short the physiological constitution of the body in the ordinary sense of the words—are not the only factors which determine duration of life. This conclusion forces itself upon our attention as soon as the attempt is made to explain existing facts by these factors alone: there must be some other additional cause contained in the organism as an unknown and invisible part of its constitution, a cause which determines the duration of life.

The size of the organism must in the first place be taken into consideration. Of all organisms in the world, large trees have the longest lives. The Adansonias of the Cape Verd Islands are said to live for 6000 years. The largest animals also attain the greatest age. Thus there is no doubt that whales live for some hundreds of years. Elephants live 200 years, and it would not be difficult to construct a descending series of animals in which the duration of life diminishes in almost exact proportion to the decrease in the size of the body. Thus a horse lives forty years, a blackbird eighteen, a mouse six, and many insects only a few days or weeks.

If however the facts are examined a little more closely it will be observed that the great age (200 years) reached by an elephant is also attained by many smaller animals, such as the pike and carp. The horse lives forty years, but so does a cat or a toad; and a sea anemone has been known to live for over fifty years. The duration of life in a pig (about twenty years) is the same as that in a crayfish, although the latter does not nearly attain the hundredth part of the weight of a pig.

It is therefore evident that length of life cannot be determined by the size of the body alone. There is, however, some relation between these two attributes. A large animal lives longer than a small one because it is larger; it would not be able to become even comparatively large unless endowed with a comparatively long duration of life.

Apart from all other reasons, no one could imagine that the gigantic body of an elephant could be built up like that of a mouse in three weeks, or in a single day like that of the larva of certain flies. The gestation of an elephant lasts for nearly two years, and maturity is only reached after a lapse of about twenty-four years.

Furthermore, to ensure the preservation of the species, a longer time is required by a large animal than by a small one, when both have reached maturity. Thus Leuckart and later Herbert Spencer have pointed out that the absorbing surface of an animal only increases as the square of its length, while its size increases as the cube; and it therefore follows that the larger an animal becomes, the greater will be the difficulty experienced in assimilating any nourishment over and above that which it requires for its own needs, and therefore the more slowly will it reproduce itself.

But although it may be stated generally that the duration of the period of growth and length of life are longest in the largest animals, it is nevertheless impossible to maintain that there is any fixed relation between the two; and Flourens was mistaken when he considered that the length of life was always equivalent to five times the duration of the period of growth. Such a conclusion might be accepted in the case of man if we set his period of growth at twenty years and his length of life at a hundred; but it cannot be accepted for the majority of other Mammalia. Thus the horse lives from forty to fifty years, and the latter age is at least as frequently reached among horses as a hundred years among men; but the horse becomes mature in four years, and the length of its life is thus ten or twelve times as long as its period of growth.

The second factor which influences the duration of life is purely physiological: it is the rate at which the animal lives, the rapidity with which assimilation and the other vital processes take place. Upon this point Lotze remarks in his Microcosmus—‘Active and restless mobility destroys the organized body: the swift-footed animals hunted by man, as also dogs, and even apes, are inferior in length of life to man and the larger beasts of prey, which satisfy their needs by a few vigorous efforts.' ‘The inertness of the Amphibia is, on the other hand, accompanied by relatively great length of life.'

There is certainly some truth in these observations, and yet it would be a great mistake to assume that activity necessarily implies a short life. The most active birds have very long lives, as will be shown later on: they live as long as and sometimes longer than the majority of Amphibia which reach the same size. The organism must not be looked upon as a heap of combustible material, which is completely reduced to ashes in a certain time the length of which is determined by size, and by the rate at which it burns; but it should be rather compared to a fire, to which fresh fuel can be continually added, and which, whether it burns quickly or slowly, can be kept burning as long as necessity demands.

The connection between activity and shortness of life cannot be explained by supposing that a more rapid consumption of the body occurs, but it is explicable because the increased rate at which the vital processes take place permit the more rapid achievement of the aim and purpose of life, viz. the attainment of maturity and the reproduction of the species.

When I speak of the aim and purpose of life, I am only using figures of speech, and I do not mean to imply that nature is in any way working consciously.

When I was speaking of the relation between duration of life and the size of the body, I might have added another factor which also exerts some influence, viz. the complexity of the structure. Two organisms of the same size, but belonging to different grades of organization, will require different periods of time for their development. Certain animals of a very lowly organization, such as the Rhizopoda, may attain a diameter of ·5 mm. and may thus become larger than many insects' eggs. Yet under favourable circumstances an Amoeba can divide into two animals in ten minutes, while no insect's egg can develope into the young animal in a less period than twenty-four hours. Time is required for the development of the immense number of cells which must in the latter case arise from the single egg-cell.

Hence we may say that the peculiar constitution of an animal does in part determine the length of time which must elapse before reproduction begins. The period before reproduction is however only part of the whole life of an animal, which of course extends over the total period during which the animal exists.

Hitherto it has always been assumed that the duration of this total period is solely determined by the constitution of the animal's body. But the assumption is erroneous. The strength of the spring which drives the wheel of life does not solely depend upon the size of the wheel itself or upon the material of which it is made; and, leaving the metaphor, duration of life is not exclusively determined by the size of the animal, the complexity of its structure, and the rate of its metabolism. The facts are plainly and clearly opposed to such a supposition.

How, for instance, can we explain from this point of view the fact that the queen-ant and the workers live for many years, while the males live for a few weeks at most? The sexes are not distinguished by any great difference in size or complexity of body, or in the rate of metabolism. In all these three particulars they must be looked upon as precisely the same, and yet there is this immense difference between the lengths of their lives.

I shall return later on to this and other similar cases, and for the present I assume it to be proved that physiological considerations alone cannot determine the duration of life. It is not these which alone determine the strength of the spring which moves the machinery of life; we know that springs of different strengths may be fixed in machines of the same kind and quality. This metaphor is however imperfect, because we cannot imagine the existence of any special force in an organism which determines the duration of its life; but it is nevertheless useful because it emphasises the fact that the duration of life is forced upon the organism by causes outside itself, just as the spring is fixed in its place by forces outside the machine, and not only fixed in its place, but chosen of a certain strength so that it will run down after a certain time.

To put it briefly, I consider that duration of life is really dependent upon adaptation to external conditions, that its length, whether longer or shorter, is governed by the needs of the species, and that it is determined by precisely the same mechanical process of regulation as that by which the structure and functions of an organism are adapted to its environment.

Assuming for the moment that these conclusions are valid, let us ask how the duration of life of any given species can have been determined by their means. In the first place, in regulating duration of life, the advantage to the species, and not to the individual, is alone of any importance. This must be obvious to any one who has once thoroughly thought out the process of natural selection. It is of no importance to the species whether the individual lives longer or shorter, but it is of importance that the individual should be enabled to do its work towards the maintenance of the species. This work is reproduction, or the formation of a sufficient number of new individuals to compensate the species for those which die. As soon as the individual has performed its share in this work of compensation, it ceases to be of any value to the species, it has fulfilled its duty and may die. But the individual may be of advantage to the species for a longer period if it not only produces offspring, but tends them for a longer or shorter time, either by protecting, feeding, or instructing them. This last duty is not only undertaken by man, but also by animals, although to a smaller extent; for instance, birds teach their young to fly, and so on.

We should therefore expect to find that, as a rule, life does not greatly outlast the period of reproduction except in those species which tend their young; and as a matter of fact we find that this is the case.

All mammals and birds outlive the period of reproduction, but this never occurs among insects except in those species which tend their young. Furthermore, the life of all the lower animals ceases also with the end of the reproductive period, as far as we can judge.

Duration of life is not however determined in this way, but only the point at which its termination occurs relatively to the cessation of reproduction. The duration itself depends first upon the length of time which is required for the animal to reach maturity—that is, the duration of its youth, and, secondly, upon the length of the period of fertility—that is the time which is necessary for the individual to produce a sufficient number of descendants to ensure the perpetuation of the species. It is precisely this latter point which is determined by external conditions.

There is no species of animal which is not exposed to destruction through various accidental agencies—by hunger or cold, by drought or flood, by epidemics, or by enemies, whether beasts of prey or parasites. We also know that these causes of death are only apparently accidental, or at least that they can only be called accidental as far as a single individual is concerned. As a matter of fact a far greater number of individuals perish through the operation of these agencies than by natural death. There are thousands of species of which the existence depends upon the destruction of other species; as, for example, the various kinds of fish which feed on the countless minute Crustacea inhabiting our lakes.

It is easy to see that an individual is, ceteris paribus, more exposed to accidental death when the natural term of its life becomes longer; and therefore the longer the time required by an individual for the production of a sufficient number of descendants to ensure the existence of the species, the greater will be the number of individuals which perish accidentally before they have fulfilled this important duty. Hence it follows, first, that the number of descendants produced by any individual must be greater as the duration of its reproductive period becomes longer; and, secondly, the surprising result that nature does not tend to secure the longest possible life to the adult individual, but, on the contrary, tends to shorten the period of reproductive activity as far as possible, and with this the duration of life; but these conclusions only refer to the animal and not to the vegetable world.

All this sounds very paradoxical, but the facts show that it is true. At first sight numerous instances of remarkably long life seem to refute the argument, but the contradictions are only apparent and disappear on closer investigation.

Birds as a rule live to a surprisingly great age. Even the smallest of our native singing birds lives for ten years, while the nightingale and blackbird live from twelve to eighteen years. A pair of eider ducks were observed to make their nest in the same place for twenty years, and it is believed that these birds sometimes reach the age of nearly one hundred years. A cuckoo, which was recognised by a peculiar note in its call, was heard in the same forest for thirty-two consecutive years. Birds of prey, and birds which live in marshy districts, become much older, for they outlive more than one generation of men.

Schinz mentions a bearded vulture which was seen sitting on a rock upon a glacier near Grindelwald, and the oldest men in Grindelwald had, when boys, seen the same bird sitting on the same rock. A white-headed vulture in the Schönbrunn Zoological Gardens had been in captivity for 118 years, and many examples are known of eagles and falcons reaching an age of over 100 years. Finally, we must not forget Humboldt's [1] Atur parrot from the Orinoco, concerning which the Indians said that it could not be understood because it spoke the language of an extinct tribe.

It is therefore necessary to ask how far we can show that such long lives are really the shortest which are possible under the circumstances.

Two factors must here be taken into consideration; first, that the young of birds are greatly exposed to destructive agencies; and, secondly, that the structure of a bird is adapted for flight and therefore excludes the possibility of any great degree of fertility.

Many birds, like the stormy petrel, the diver, guillemot, and other sea-birds, lay only a single egg, and breed (as is usually the case with birds) only once a year. Others, such as birds of prey, pigeons, and humming-birds, lay two eggs, and it is only those which fly badly, such as jungle fowls and pheasants, which produce a number of eggs (about twenty), and the young of these very species are especially exposed to those dangers which more or less affect the offspring of all birds. Even the eggs of our most powerful native bird of prey, the golden eagle, which all animals fear, and of which the eyrie, perched on a rocky height, is beyond the reach of any enemies, are very frequently destroyed by late frosts or snow in spring, and, at the end of the year in winter, the young birds encounter the fiercest of foes, viz. hunger. In the majority of birds, the egg, as soon as it is laid, becomes exposed to the attacks of enemies; martens and weasels, cats and owls, buzzards and crows are all on the look out for it. At a later period the same enemies destroy numbers of the helpless young, and in winter many succumb in the struggle against cold and hunger, or to the numerous dangers which attend migration over land and sea, dangers which decimate the young birds.

It is impossible directly to ascertain the exact number which are thus destroyed; but we can arrive at an estimate by an indirect method. If we agree with Darwin and Wallace in believing that in most species a certain degree of constancy is maintained in the number of individuals of successive generations, and that therefore the number of individuals within the same area remains tolerably uniform for a certain period of time; it follows that, if we know the fertility and the average duration of life of a species, we can calculate the number of those which perish before reaching maturity. Unfortunately the average length of life is hardly known with certainty in the case of any species of bird. Let us however assume, for the sake of argument, that the individuals of a certain species live for ten years, and that they lay twenty eggs in each year; then of the 200 eggs which are laid during the ten years, which constitute the lifetime of an individual, 198 must be destroyed, and only two will reach maturity, if the number of individuals in the species is to remain constant. Or to take a concrete example; let us fix the duration of life in the golden eagle at 60 years, and its period of immaturity (of which the length is not exactly known) at ten years, and let us assume that it lays two eggs a year;—then a pair will produce 100 eggs in 50 years, and of these only two will develope into adult birds; and thus on an average a pair of eagles will only succeed in bringing a pair of young to maturity once in fifty years. And so far from being an exaggeration, this calculation rather under-estimates the proportion of mortality among the young; it is sufficient however to enforce the fact that the number of young destroyed must reach in birds a very high figure as compared with the number of those which survive [See Note 1].

If this argument holds, and at the same time the fertility from physical and other grounds cannot be increased, it follows that a relatively long life is the only means by which the maintenance of the species of birds can be secured. Hence a great length of life is proved to be an absolute necessity for birds.

I have already mentioned that these animals demonstrate most clearly that physiological considerations do not by any means suffice to explain the duration of life. Although all vital processes take place with greater rapidity and the temperature of the blood is higher in birds than in mammals, yet the former greatly surpass the latter in length of life. Only in the largest Mammalia,—the whales and the elephants—is the duration of life equal to or perhaps greater than that of the longest lived birds. If we compare the relative weights of these animals, the Mammalia are everywhere at a disadvantage. Even such large animals as the horse and bear only attain an age of fifty years at the outside; the lion lives about thirty-five years, the wild boar twenty-five, the sheep fifteen, the fox fourteen, the hare ten, the squirrel and the mouse six years [See Note 2]; but the golden eagle, though it does not weigh more than from 9-12 pounds, and is thus intermediate as regards weight between the hare and the fox, attains nevertheless an age which is ten times as long. The explanation of this difference is to be found first in the much greater fertility of the smaller Mammalia, such as the rabbit or mouse, and secondly in the much lower mortality among the young of the larger Mammalia. The minimum duration of life necessary for the maintenance of the species is therefore much lower than it is among birds. Even here, however, we are not yet in possession of exact statistics indicating the number of young destroyed; but it is obvious that Mammalia possess over birds a great advantage in their intra-uterine development. In Mammalia the destruction of young only begins after birth, while in birds it begins during the development of the embryo. This distinction is in fact carried even further, for many mammals protect their young against enemies for a long time after birth.

It is unnecessary to go further into the details of these cases, or to consider whether and to what extent every class of the animal kingdom conforms to these principles. Thus to consider all or even most of the classes of the animal kingdom would be quite impossible at the present time, because our knowledge of the duration of life among animals is very incomplete. Biological problems have for a long time excited less interest than morphological ones. There is nothing or almost nothing to be found in existing zoological text books upon the duration of life in animals; and even monographs upon single classes, such as the Amphibia, reptiles, or even birds, contain very little on this subject. When we come to the lower animals, knowledge on this point is almost entirely wanting. I have not been able to find a single reference to the age in Echinodermata, and very little about that of worms, Crustacea, and Coelenterata [See Note 4]. The length of life in many molluscan species is very well known, because the age can be determined by markings on the shell [See Note 5]. But even in this group, any exact knowledge, such as would be available for our purpose, is still wanting concerning such necessary points as the degree of fertility, the relation to other animals, and many other factors.

Data the most exact in all respects are found among the insects [See Note 3], and to this class I will for a short time direct your special attention. We will first consider the duration of larval life. This varies very greatly, and chiefly depends upon the nature of the food, and the ease or difficulty with which it can be procured. The larvae of bees reach the pupal stage in five to six days; but it is well known that they are fed with substances of high nutritive value (honey and pollen), and that they require no great effort to obtain the food, which lies heaped up around them. The larval life in many Ichneumonidae  is but little longer, being passed in a parasitic condition within other insects; abundance of accessible food is thus supplied by the tissues and juices of the host. Again, the larvae of the blow-fly become pupae in eight to ten days, although they move actively in boring their way under the skin and into the tissues of the dead animals upon which they live. The life of the leaf-eating caterpillars of butterflies and moths lasts for six weeks or longer, corresponding to the lower nutritive value of their food and the greater expenditure of muscular energy in obtaining it. Those caterpillars which live upon wood, such as Cossus ligniperda, have a larval life of two to three years, and the same is true of hymenopterous insects with similar habits, such as Sirex.

Furthermore, predaceous larvae require a long period for attaining their full size, for they can only obtain their prey at rare intervals and by the expenditure of considerable energy. Thus among the dragon-flies larval life lasts for a year, and among many may-flies even two or three years.

All these results can be easily understood from well-known physiological principles, and they indicate that the length of larval life is very elastic, and can be extended as circumstances demand; for otherwise carnivorous and wood-eating larvae could not have survived in the phyletic development of insects. Now it would be a great mistake to suppose that there is any reciprocal relation between duration of life in the larva and in the mature insect, or imago; or, to put it differently, to suppose that the total duration of life is the same in insects of the same size and activity, so that the time which is spent in the larval state is, as it were, deducted from the life of the imago, and vice versa. That this cannot be the case is shown by the fact already alluded to, that among bees and ants larval life is of the same length in males and females, while there is a difference of some years between the lengths of their lives as imagos.

The life of the imago is generally very short, and not only ends with the close of the period of reproduction, as was mentioned above, but this latter period is also itself extremely short [See Note 3].

The larva of the cockchafer devours the roots of plants for a period of four years, but the mature insect with its more complex structure endures for a comparatively short time; for the beetle itself dies in about a month after completing its metamorphosis. And this is by no means an extreme case. Most butterflies have an even shorter life, and among the moths there are many species (as in the Psychidae ) which only live for a few days, while others again, which reproduce by the parthenogenetic method, only live for twenty-four hours. The shortest life is found in the imagos of certain may-flies, which only live four to five hours. They emerge from the pupa-case towards the evening, and as soon as their wings have hardened, they begin to fly, and pair with one another. Then they hover over the water; their eggs are extruded all at once, and death follows almost immediately.

The short life of the imago in insects is easily explained by the principles set forth above. Insects belong to the number of those animals which, even in their mature state, are very liable to be destroyed by others which are dependent upon them for food; but they are at the same time among the most fertile of animals, and often produce an astonishing number of eggs in a very short time. And no better arrangement for the maintenance of the species under such circumstances can be imagined than that supplied by diminishing the duration of life, and simultaneously increasing the rapidity of reproduction.

This general tendency is developed to very different degrees according to conditions peculiar to each species. The shortening of the period of reproduction, and the duration of life to the greatest extent which is possible, depends upon a number of co-operating circumstances, which it is impossible to enumerate completely. Even the manner in which the eggs are laid may have an important effect. If the larva of the may-fly lived upon some rare and widely distributed food-plant instead of at the bottom of streams, the imagos would be compelled to live longer, for they would be obliged—like many moths and butterflies—to lay their eggs singly or in small clusters, over a large area. This would require both time and strength, and they could not retain the rudimentary mouth which they now possess, for they would have to feed in order to acquire sufficient strength for long flights; and—whether they were carnivorous like dragon-flies, or honey-eating like butterflies—their feeding would itself cause a further expenditure of both time and strength, which would necessitate a still further increase in the duration of life. And as a matter of fact we find that dragon-flies and swift-flying hawk-moths often live for six or eight weeks and sometimes longer.

We must also remember that in many species the eggs are not mature immediately after the close of the pupal stage, but that they only gradually ripen during the life of the imago, and frequently, as in many beetles and butterflies, do not ripen simultaneously, but only a certain number at a time. This depends, first, upon the amount of reserve nutriment accumulated in the body of the insect during larval life; secondly, upon various but entirely different circumstances, such as the power of flight. Insects which fly swiftly and are continually on the wing, like hawk-moths and dragon-flies, cannot be burdened with a very large number of ripe eggs. In these cases the gradual ripening of the eggs becomes necessary, and involves an increase in the duration of life. In Lepidoptera, we see how the power of flight diminishes step by step as soon as other circumstances permit, and simultaneously how the eggs ripen more and more rapidly, while the length of life becomes shorter, until a minimum is reached. Only two stages in the process of transformation can be mentioned here.

The strongest flyers—the hawk-moths and butterflies—must be looked upon as the most specialised and highest types among the Lepidoptera. Not only do they possess organs for flight in their most perfect form, but also organs for feeding—the characteristic spiral proboscis or ‘tongue.'

There are certain moths (among the Bombyces) of which the males fly as well as the hawk-moths, while the females are unable to use their large wings for flight, because the body is too heavily weighted by a mass of eggs, all of which reach maturity at the same time. Such species, as for instance Aglia tau, are unable to distribute their eggs over a wide area, but are obliged to lay them all in a single spot. They can however do this without harm to the species, because their caterpillars live upon forest trees, which provide abundant food for a larger number of larvae than can be produced by the eggs of a single female. The eggs of Aglia tau  are deposited directly after pairing, and shortly afterwards the insect dies at the foot of the tree among the moss-covered roots of which it has passed the winter in the pupal state. The female moth seldom lives for more than three or four days; but the males which fly swiftly in the forests, seeking for the less abundant females, live for a much longer period, certainly from eight to fourteen days [2].

The females of the Psychidae  also deposit all their eggs in one place. The grasses and lichens upon which their caterpillars live grow close at hand upon the surface of the earth and stones, and hence the female moth does not leave the ground, and generally does not even quit the pupa-case, within which it lays its eggs; as soon as this duty is finished, it dies. In relation to these habits the wings and mouth of the female are rudimentary, while the male possesses perfectly developed wings.

The causes which have regulated the length of life in these cases are obvious enough, yet still more striking illustrations are to be found among insects which live in colonies.

The duration of life varies with the sex in bees, wasps, ants, and termites: the females have a long life, the males a short one; and there can be no doubt that the explanation of this fact is to be found in adaptation to external conditions of life.

The queen-bee—the only perfect female in the hive—lives two to three years, and often as long as five years, while the male bees or drones only live four to five months. Sir John Lubbock has succeeded in keeping female and working ants alive for seven years—a great age for insects [3],—while the males only lived a few weeks.

These last examples become readily intelligible when we remember that the males neither collect food nor help in building the hive. Their value to the colony ceases with the nuptial flight, and from the point of view of utility it is easy to understand why their lives should be so short [See Note 7 and Note 9]. But the case is very different with the female. The longest period of reproduction possible, when accompanied by very great fertility, is, as a rule, advantageous for the maintenance of the species. It cannot however be attained in most insects, for the capability of living long would be injurious if all individuals fell a prey to their enemies before they had completed the full period of life. Here it is otherwise: when the queen-bee returns from her nuptial flight, she remains within the hive until her death, and never leaves it. There she is almost completely secure from enemies and from dangers of all kinds; thousands of workers armed with stings protect, feed, and warm her; and in short there is every chance of her living through the full period of a life of normal length. And the case is entirely similar with the female ant. In neither of these insects is there any reason why the advantages which follow from a lengthened period of reproductive activity should be abandoned [See Note 6].

That an increase in the length of life has actually taken place in such cases seems to be indicated by the fact that both sexes of the saw-flies—the probable ancestors of bees and ants—have but a short life. On the other hand, the may-flies afford an undoubted instance of the shortening of life. Only in certain species is life as short as I have indicated above; in the majority it lasts for one or more days. The extreme cases, with a life of only a few hours, form the end of a line of development tending in the direction of a shortened life. This is made clear by the fact that one of these may-flies (Palingenia ) does not even leave its pupa-skin, but reproduces in the so-called sub-imago stage.

It is therefore obvious that the duration of life is extremely variable, and not only depends upon physiological considerations, but also upon the external conditions of life. With every change in the structure of a species, and with the acquisition of new habits, the length of its life may, and in most cases must, be altered.

In answering the question as to the means by which the lengthening or shortening of life is brought about, our first appeal must be to the process of natural selection. Duration of life, like every other characteristic of an organism, is subject to individual fluctuations. From our experience with the human species we know that long life is hereditary. As soon as the long-lived individuals in a species obtain some advantage in the struggle for existence, they will gradually become dominant, and those with the shortest lives will be exterminated.

So far everything is quite simple; but hitherto we have only considered the external mechanism, and we must now further inquire as to the concomitant internal means by which such processes are rendered possible.

This brings us face to face with one of the most difficult problems in the whole range of physiology,—the question of the origin of death. As soon as we thoroughly understand the circumstances upon which normal death depends in general, we shall be able to make a further inquiry as to the circumstances which influence its earlier or later appearance, as well as to any functional changes in the organism which may produce such a result.

The changes in the organism which result in normal death,—senility so-called,—have been most accurately studied among men. We know that with advancing age certain alterations take place in the tissues, by which their functional activity is diminished; that these changes gradually increase, and finally either lead to direct or so-called normal death, or produce indirect death by rendering the organism incapable of resisting injuries due to external influences. These senile changes have been so well described from the time of Burdach and Bichat to that of Kussmaul, and are so well known, that I need not enter into further details here.

In answer to an inquiry as to the causes which induce these changes in the tissues, I can only suggest that the cells which form the vital constituents of tissues are worn out by prolonged use and activity. It is conceivable that the cells might be thus worn out in two ways; either the cells of a tissue remain the same throughout life, or else they are being continually replaced by younger generations of cells, which are themselves cast off in their turn.

In the present state of our knowledge the former alternative can hardly be maintained. Millions of blood corpuscles are continually dying and being replaced by new ones. On both the internal and external surfaces of the body countless epithelial cells are being incessantly removed, while new ones arise in their place; the activity of many and probably of all glands is accompanied by a change in their cells, for their secretions consist partly of detached and partly of dissolved cells; it is stated that even the cells of bone, connective tissue, and muscle undergo the same changes, and nervous tissue alone remains, in which it is doubtful whether such a renewal of cells takes place. And yet as regards even this tissue, certain facts are known which indicate a normal, though probably a slow renewal of the histological elements. I believe that one might reasonably defend the statement,—in fact, it has already found advocates,—that the vital processes of the higher (i.e. multicellular) animals are accompanied by a renewal of the morphological elements in most tissues.

This statement leads us to seek the origin of death, not in the waste of single cells, but in the limitation of their powers of reproduction. Death takes place because a worn-out tissue cannot for ever renew itself, and because a capacity for increase by means of cell-division is not everlasting, but finite [SeeNote 8]. This does not however imply that the immediate cause of death lies in the imperfect renewal of cells, for death would in all cases occur long before the reproductive power of the cells had been completely exhausted. Functional disturbances will appear as soon as the rate at which the worn-out cells are renewed becomes slow and insufficient.

But it must not be forgotten that death is not always preceded by senility, or a period of old age. For instance, in many of the lower animals death immediately follows the most important deed of the organism, viz. reproduction. Many Lepidoptera, all may-flies, and many other insects die of exhaustion immediately after depositing their eggs. Men have been known to die from the shock of a strong passion. Sulla is said to have died as the result of rage, whilst Leo X succumbed to an excess of joy. Here the psychical shock caused too intense an excitement of the nervous system. In the same manner the exercise of intense effort may also produce a similarly fatal excitement in the above-mentioned insects. At any rate it is certain that when, for some reason, this effort is not made, the insect lives for a somewhat longer period.

It is clear that in such animals as insects we can only speak figuratively of normal death, if we mean by this an end which is not due to accident. In these animals an accidental end is the rule, and is therefore, strictly speaking, normal [See Note 9].

Assuming the truth of the above-mentioned hypothesis as to the causes of normal death, it follows that the number of cell-generations which can proceed from the egg-cell is fixed for every species, at least within certain limits; and this number of cell-generations, if attained, corresponds to the maximum duration of life in the individuals of the species concerned. Shortening of life in any species must depend upon a decrease in the number of successive cell-generations, while conversely, the lengthening of life depends upon an increase in the number of cell-generations over those which were previously possible.

Such changes actually take place in plants. When an annual plant becomes perennial, the change—one in every way possible—can only happen by the production of new shoots, i. e. by an increase in the number of cell-generations. The process is not so obvious in animals, because in them the formation of young cells does not lead to the production of new and visible parts, for the new material is merely deposited in the place of that which is worn out and disappears. Among plants, on the other hand, the old material persists, its cells become lignified, and it is built over by new cells which assume the functions of life.

It is certainly true that the question as to the necessity of death in general does not seem much clearer from this point of view than from the purely physiological one. This is because we do not know why a cell must divide 10,000 or 100,000 times and then suddenly stop. It must be admitted that we can see no reason why the power of cell-multiplication should not be unlimited, and why the organism should not therefore be endowed with everlasting life. In the same manner, from a physiological point of view, we might admit that we can see no reason why the functions of the organism should ever cease.

It is only from the point of view of utility that we can understand the necessity of death. The same arguments which were employed to explain the necessity for as short a life as possible, will with but slight modification serve to explain the common necessity of death [4].

Let us imagine that one of the higher animals became immortal; it then becomes perfectly obvious that it would cease to be of value to the species to which it belonged. Suppose that such an immortal individual could escape all fatal accidents, through infinite time,—a supposition which is of course hardly conceivable. The individual would nevertheless be unable to avoid, from time to time, slight injuries to one or another part of its body. The injured parts could not regain their former integrity, and thus the longer the individual lived, the more defective and crippled it would become, and the less perfectly would it fulfil the purpose of its species. Individuals are injured by the operation of external forces, and for this reason alone it is necessary that new and perfect individuals should continually arise and take their place, and this necessity would remain even if the individuals possessed the power of living eternally.

From this follows, on the one hand, the necessity of reproduction, and, on the other, the utility of death. Worn-out individuals are not only valueless to the species, but they are even harmful, for they take the place of those which are sound. Hence by the operation of natural selection, the life of our hypothetically immortal individual would be shortened by the amount which was useless to the species. It would be reduced to a length which would afford the most favourable conditions for the existence of as large a number as possible of vigorous individuals, at the same time.

If by these considerations death is shown to be a beneficial occurrence, it by no means follows that it is to be solely accounted for on grounds of utility. Death might also depend upon causes which lie in the nature of life itself. The floating of ice upon water seems to us to be a useful arrangement, although the fact that it does float depends upon its molecular structure and not upon the fact that its doing so is of any advantage to us. In like manner the necessity of death has been hitherto explained as due to causes which are inherent in organic nature, and not to the fact that it may be advantageous.

I do not however believe in the validity of this explanation; I consider that death is not a primary necessity, but that it has been secondarily acquired as an adaptation. I believe that life is endowed with a fixed duration, not because it is contrary to its nature to be unlimited, but because the unlimited existence of individuals would be a luxury without any corresponding advantage. The above-mentioned hypothesis upon the origin and necessity of death leads me to believe that the organism did not finally cease to renew the worn-out cell material because the nature of the cells did not permit them to multiply indefinitely, but because the power of multiplying indefinitely was lost when it ceased to be of use.

I consider that this view, if not exactly proved, can at any rate be rendered extremely probable.

It is useless to object that man (or any of the higher animals) dies from the physical necessity of his nature, just as the specific gravity of ice results from its physical nature. I am quite ready to admit that this is the case. John Hunter, supported by his experiments on anabiosis, hoped to prolong the life of man indefinitely by alternate freezing and thawing; and the Veronese Colonel Aless. Guaguino made his contemporaries believe that a race of men existed in Russia, of which the individuals died regularly every year on the 27th of November, and returned to life on the 24th of the following April. There cannot however be the least doubt, that the higher organisms, as they are now constructed, contain within themselves the germs of death. The question however arises as to how this has come to pass; and I reply that death is to be looked upon as an occurrence which is advantageous to the species as a concession to the outer conditions of life, and not as an absolute necessity, essentially inherent in life itself.

Death, that is the end of life, is by no means, as is usually assumed, an attribute of all organisms. An immense number of low organisms do not die, although they are easily destroyed, being killed by heat, poisons, &c. As long, however, as those conditions which are necessary for their life are fulfilled, they continue to live, and they thus carry the potentiality of unending life in themselves. I am speaking not only of the Amoebae and the low unicellular Algae, but also of far more highly organized unicellular animals, such as the Infusoria.

The process of fission in the Amoeba has been recently much discussed, and I am well aware that the life of the individual is generally believed to come to an end with the division which gives rise to two new individuals, as if death and reproduction were the same thing. But this process cannot be truly called death. Where is the dead body? what is it that dies? Nothing dies; the body of the animal only divides into two similar parts, possessing the same constitution. Each of these parts is exactly like its parent, lives in the same manner, and finally also divides into two halves. As far as these organisms are concerned, death can only be spoken of in the most figurative sense.

There are no grounds for the assumption that the two halves of an Amoeba are differently constituted internally, so that after a time one of them will die while the other continues to live. Such an idea is disproved by a recently discovered fact. It has been noticed in Euglypha  (one of the Foraminifera) and in other low animals of the same group, that when division is almost complete, and the two halves are only connected by a short strand, the protoplasm of both parts begins to circulate, and for some time passes backwards and forwards between the two halves. A complete mingling of the whole substance of the animal and a resulting identity in the constitution of each half is thus brought about before the final separation [See Note 10].

The objection might perhaps be raised that, if the parent animal does not exactly die, it nevertheless disappears as an individual. I cannot however let this pass unless it is also maintained that the man of to-day is no longer the same individual as the boy of twenty years ago. In the growth of man, neither structure nor the components of structure remain precisely the same; the material is continually changing. If we can imagine an Amoeba endowed with self-consciousness, it might think before dividing ‘I will give birth to a daughter,' and I have no doubt that each half would regard the other as the daughter, and would consider itself to be the original parent. We cannot however appeal to this criterion of personality in the Amoeba, but there is nevertheless a criterion which seems to me to decide the matter: I refer to the continuity of life in the same form.

Now if numerous organisms, endowed with the potentiality of never-ending life, have real existence, the question arises as to whether the fact can be understood from the point of view of utility. If death has been shown to be a necessary adaptation for the higher organisms, why should it not be so for the lower also? Are they not decimated by enemies? are they not often imperfect? are they not worn out by contact with the external world? Although they are certainly destroyed by other animals, there is nothing comparable to that deterioration of the body which takes place in the higher organisms. Unicellular animals are too simply constructed for this to be possible. If an infusorian is injured by the loss of some part of its body, it may often recover its former integrity, but if the injury is too great it dies. The alternative is always perfect integrity or complete destruction.

We may now leave this part of the subject, for it is obvious that normal death, that is to say, death which arises from internal causes, is an impossibility among these lower organisms. In those species at any rate in which fission is accompanied by a circulation of the protoplasm of the parent, the two halves must possess the same qualities. Since one of them is endowed with a potentiality for unending life, and must be so endowed if the species is to persist, it is clear that the other exactly similar half must be endowed with equal potentiality.

Let us now consider how it happened that the multicellular animals and plants, which arose from unicellular forms of life, came to lose this power of living for ever.

The answer to this question is closely bound up with the principle of division of labour which appeared among multicellular organisms at a very early stage, and which has gradually led to the production of greater and greater complexity in their structure.

The first multicellular organism was probably a cluster of similar cells, but these units soon lost their original homogeneity. As the result of mere relative position, some of the cells were especially fitted to provide for the nutrition of the colony, while others undertook the work of reproduction. Hence the single group would come to be divided into two groups of cells, which may be called somatic and reproductive—the cells of the body as opposed to those which are concerned with reproduction. This differentiation was not at first absolute, and indeed it is not always so to-day. Among the lower Metazoa, such as the polypes, the capacity for reproduction still exists to such a degree in the somatic cells, that a small number of them are able to give rise to a new organism,—in fact new individuals are normally produced by means of so-called buds. Furthermore, it is well known that many of the higher animals have retained considerable powers of regeneration; the salamander can replace its lost tail or foot, and the snail can reproduce its horns, eyes, etc.

As the complexity of the Metazoan body increased, the two groups of cells became more sharply separated from each other. Very soon the somatic cells surpassed the reproductive in number, and during this increase they became more and more broken up by the principle of the division of labour into sharply separated systems of tissues. As these changes took place, the power of reproducing large parts of the organism was lost, while the power of reproducing the whole individual became concentrated in the reproductive cells alone.

But it does not therefore follow that the somatic cells were compelled to lose the power of unlimited cell-production, although in accordance with the law of heredity, they could only give rise to cells which resembled themselves, and belonged to the same differentiated histological system. But as the fact of normal death seems to teach us that they have lost even this power, the causes of the loss must be sought outside the organism, that is to say, in the external conditions of life; and we have already seen that death can be very well explained as a secondarily acquired adaptation. The reproductive cells cannot lose the capacity for unlimited reproduction, or the species to which they belong would suffer extinction. But the somatic cells have lost this power to a gradually increasing extent, so that at length they became restricted to a fixed, though perhaps very large number of cell-generations. This restriction, which implies the continual influx of new individuals, has been explained above as a result of the impossibility of entirely protecting the individual from accidents, and from the deterioration which follows them. Normal death could not take place among unicellular organisms, because the individual and the reproductive cell are one and the same: on the other hand, normal death is possible, and as we see, has made its appearance, among multicellular organisms in which the somatic and reproductive cells are distinct.

I have endeavoured to explain death as the result of restriction in the powers of reproduction possessed by the somatic cells, and I have suggested that such restriction may conceivably follow from a limitation in the number of cell-generations possible for the cells of each organ and tissue. I am unable to indicate the molecular and chemical properties of the cell upon which the duration of its power of reproduction depends: to ask this is to demand an explanation of the nature of heredity—a problem the solution of which may still occupy many generations of scientists. At present we can hardly venture to propose any explanation of the real nature of heredity.

But the question must be answered as to whether the kind and degree of reproductive power resides in the nature of the cell itself, or in any way depends upon the quality of its nutriment.

Virchow, in his ‘Cellular Pathology,' has remarked that the cells are not only nourished, but that they actively supply themselves with food. If therefore the internal condition of the cell decides whether it shall accept or reject the nutriment which is offered, it becomes conceivable that all cells may possess the power of refusing to absorb nutriment, and therefore of ceasing to undergo further division.

Modern embryology affords us many proofs, in the segmentation of the ovum, and in the subsequent developmental changes, that the causes of the different forms of reproductive activity witnessed in cells lie in the essential nature of the cells themselves. Why does the segmentation of one half of certain eggs proceed twice as rapidly as that of the other half? why do the cells of the ectoderm divide so much more quickly than those of the endoderm? Why does not only the rate, but also the number of cells produced (so far as we can follow them) always remain the same? Why does the multiplication of cells in every part of the blastoderm take place with the exact amount of energy and rapidity necessary to produce the various elevations, folds, invaginations, etc., in which the different organs and tissues have their origin, and from which finally the organism itself arises? There can be no doubt that the causes of all these phenomena lie within the cells themselves; that in the ovum and the cells which are immediately derived from it, there exists a tendency towards a certain determined (I might almost say specific) mode and energy of cell-multiplication. And why should we regard this inherited tendency as confined to the building up of the embryo? why should it not also exist in the young, and later in the mature animal? The phenomena of heredity which make their appearance even in old age afford us proofs that a tendency towards a certain mode of cell-multiplication continues to regulate the growth of the organism during the whole of its life.

The above-mentioned considerations show us that the degree of reproductive activity present in the tissues is regulated by internal causes while the natural death of an organism is the termination—the hereditary limitation—of the process of cell-division, which began in the segmentation of the ovum.

Allow me to suggest a further consideration which may be compared with the former. The organism is not only limited in time, but also in space: it not only lives for a limited period, but it can only attain a limited size. Many animals grow to their full size long before their natural end: and although many fishes, reptiles, and lower animals are said to grow during the whole of their life, we do not mean by this that they possess the power of unlimited growth any more than that of unlimited life. There is everywhere a maximum size, which, as far as our experience goes, is never surpassed. The mosquito never reaches the size of an elephant, nor the elephant that of a whale.

Upon what does this depend? Is there any external obstacle to growth? Or is the limitation entirely imposed from within?

Perhaps you may answer, that there is an established relation between the increase of surface and mass, and it cannot be denied that these relations do largely determine the size of the body. A beetle could never reach the size of an elephant, because, constituted as it is, it would be incapable of existence if it attained such dimensions. But nevertheless the relations between surface and mass do not form the only reason why any given individual does not exceed the average size of its species. Each individual does not strive to grow to the largest possible size, until the absorption from its digestive area becomes insufficient for its mass; but it ceases to grow because its cells cannot be sufficiently nourished in consequence of its increased size. The giants which occasionally appear in the human species prove that the plan upon which man is constructed can also be carried out on a scale which is far larger than the normal one. If the size of the body chiefly depends upon amount of nutriment, it would be possible to make giants and dwarfs at will. But we know, on the contrary, that the size of the body is hereditary in families to a very marked extent; in fact so much so that the size of an individual depends chiefly upon heredity, and not upon amount of food.

These observations point to the conclusion that the size of the individual is in reality pre-determined, and that it is potentially contained in the egg from which the individual developes.

We know further that the growth of the individual depends chiefly upon the multiplication of cells and only to a slight extent upon the growth of single cells. It is therefore clear that a limit of growth is imposed by a limitation in the processes by which cells are increased, both as regards the number of cells produced and the rate at which they are formed. How could we otherwise explain the fact that an animal ceases to grow long before it has reached the physiologically attainable maximum of its species, without at the same time suffering any loss of vital energy?

In many cases at least, the most important duty of an organism, viz. reproduction, follows upon the attainment of full size—a fact which induced Johannes Müller to reject the prevailing hypothesis which explained the death of animals as due to ‘the influences of the inorganic environment, which gradually wear away the life of the individual.' He argued that, if this were the case, ‘the organic energy of an individual would steadily decrease from the beginning,' while the facts indicate that this is not so [5].

If it is further asked why the egg should give rise to a fixed number of cell-generations, although perhaps a number which varies widely within certain limits, we may now refer to the operation of natural selection upon the relation of surface to mass, and upon other physiological necessities which are peculiar to the species. Because a certain size is the most favourable for a certain plan of organization, the process of natural selection determined that such a size should be within certain variable limits, characteristic of each species. This size is then transmitted from generation to generation, for when once established as normal for the species, the most favourable size is potentially present in the reproductive cell from which each individual is developed.

If this conclusion holds, and I believe that no essential objection can be raised against it, then we have in the limitation in space a process which is exactly analogous to the limitation in time, which we have already considered. The latter limitation—the duration of life—also depends upon the multiplication of cells, the rapid increase of which first gave rise to the characteristic form of the mature body, and then continued at a slower rate. In the mature animal, cell-reproduction still goes on, but it no longer exceeds the waste; for some time it just compensates for loss, and then begins to decline. The waste is not compensated for, the tissues perform their functions incompletely, and thus the way for death is prepared, until its final appearance by one of the three great Atria mortis.

I admit that facts are still wanting upon which to base this hypothesis. It is a pure supposition that senile changes are due to a deficient reproduction of cells: at the same time this supposition gains in probability when we are enabled to reduce the limitations of the organism in both time and space to one and the same principle. It cannot however be asserted under any circumstances that it is a pure supposition that the ovum possesses a capacity for cell-multiplication which is limited both as to numbers produced and rate of production. The fact that each species maintains an average size is a sufficient proof of the truth of this conclusion.

Hitherto I have only spoken of animals and have hardly mentioned plants. I should not have been able to consider them at all, had it not happened that a work of Hildebrand's [See Note 12] has recently appeared, which has, for the first time, provided us with exact observations on the duration of plant-life.

The chief results obtained by this author agree very well with the view which I have brought before you to-day. Hildebrand shows that the duration of life in plants also is by no means completely fixed, and that it may be very considerably altered through the agency of the external conditions of life. He shows that, in course of time, and under changed conditions of life, an annual plant may become perennial, or vice versa. The external factors which influence the duration of life are here however essentially different, as indeed we expect them to be, when we remember the very different conditions under which the animal and vegetable kingdoms exist. During the life of animals the destruction of mature individuals plays a most important part, but the existence of the mature plant is fairly well secured; their chief period of destruction is during youth, and this fact has a direct influence upon the degree of fertility, but not upon the duration of life. Climatic considerations, especially the periodical changes of summer and winter, or wet and dry seasons, are here of greater importance.

It must then be admitted that the dependence of the duration of life upon the external conditions of existence is alike common to plants and animals. In both kingdoms the high multicellular forms with well-differentiated organs contain the germs of death, while the low unicellular organisms are potentially immortal. Furthermore, an undying succession of reproductive cells is possessed by all the higher forms, although this may be but poor consolation to the conscious individual which perishes. Johannes Müller is therefore right, when in the sentence quoted at the beginning of my lecture, he speaks of an ‘appearance of immortality' which passes from each individual into that which succeeds it. That which remains over, that which persists, is not the individual itself,—not the complex aggregate of cells which is conscious of itself,—but an individuality which is outside its consciousness, and of a low order,—an individuality which is made up of a single cell, which arises from the conscious individual. I might here conclude, but I wish first, in a few words, to protect myself against a possible misunderstanding.

I have repeatedly spoken of immortality, first of the unicellular organism, and secondly of the reproductive cell. By this word I have merely intended to imply a duration of time which appears to be endless to our human faculties. I have no wish to enter into the question of the cosmic or telluric origin of life on the earth. An answer to this question will at once decide whether the power of reproduction possessed by these cells is in reality eternal or only immensely prolonged, for that which is without beginning is, and must be, without end.

The supposition of a cosmic origin of life can only assist us if by its means we can altogether dispense with any theory of spontaneous generation. The mere shifting of the origin of life to some other far-off world cannot in any way help us. A truly cosmic origin in its widest significance will rigidly limit us to the statement—omne vivum e vivo —to the idea that life can only arise from life, and has always so arisen,—to the conclusion that organic beings are eternal like matter itself.

Experience cannot help us to decide this question; we do not know whether spontaneous generation was the commencement of life on the earth, nor have we any direct evidence for the idea that the process of development of the living world carries the end within itself, or for the converse idea that the end can only be brought about by means of some external force.

I admit that spontaneous generation, in spite of all vain efforts to demonstrate it, remains for me a logical necessity. We cannot regard organic and inorganic matter as independent of each other and both eternal, for organic matter is continually passing, without residuum, into the inorganic. If the eternal and indestructible are alone without beginning, then the non-eternal and destructible must have had a beginning. But the organic world is certainly not eternal and indestructible in that absolute sense in which we apply these terms to matter itself. We can, indeed, kill all organic beings and thus render them inorganic at will. But these changes are not the same as those which we induce in a piece of chalk by pouring sulphuric acid upon it; in this ease we only change the form, and the inorganic matter remains. But when we pour sulphuric acid upon a worm, or when we burn an oak tree, these organisms are not changed into some other animal and tree, but they disappear entirely as organized beings and are resolved into inorganic elements. But that which can be completely resolved into inorganic matter must have also arisen from it, and must owe its ultimate foundation to it. The organic might be considered eternal if we could only destroy its form, but not its nature.

It therefore follows that the organic world must once have arisen, and further that it will at some time come to an end. Hence we must speak of the eternal duration of unicellular organisms and of reproductive cells in the Metazoa and Metaphyta in that particular sense which signifies, when measured by our standards, an immensely long time.

Yet who can maintain that he has discovered the right answer to this important question? And even though the discovery were made, can any one believe that by its means the problem of life would be solved? If it were established that spontaneous generation did actually occur, a new question at once arises as to the conditions under which the occurrence became possible. How can we conceive that dead inorganic matter could have come together in such a manner as to form living protoplasm, that wonderful and complex substance which absorbs foreign material and changes it into its own substance, in other words grows and multiplies?

And so, in discussing this question of life and death, we come at last—as in all provinces of human research—upon problems which appear to us to be, at least for the present, insoluble. In fact it is the quest after perfected truth, not its possession, that falls to our lot, that gladdens us, fills up the measure of our life, nay! hallows it.

Appendix

Note 1. The Duration of Life among Birds

There is less exact knowledge upon this subject than we might expect, considering the existing number of ornithologists and ornithological societies with their numerous publications. It has neither been possible nor necessary for my purpose to look up all the widely-scattered references which are to be found upon the subject. Many of these are doubtless unknown to me; for we are still in want of a compilation of accurately determined observations in this department of zoology. I print the few facts which I have been able to collect, as a slight contribution towards such a compilation.


Small singing birds live from eight to eighteen years: the nightingale, in captivity, eight years, but longer according to some writers: the blackbird, in captivity, twelve years, but both these birds live longer in the natural state. A ‘half-bred nightingale built its nest for nine consecutive years in the same garden' (Naumann, ‘Vögel Deutschlands,' p. 76).

Canary birds in captivity attain an age of twelve to fifteen years (l. c., p. 76).

Ravens have lived for almost a hundred years in captivity (l. c., Bd. I. p. 125).

Magpies in captivity live twenty years, and, ‘without doubt,' much longer in the natural state (l. c., p. 346).

Parrots ‘in captivity have reached upwards of a hundred years' (l. c., p. 125).

A single instance of the cuckoo (alluded to in the text) is mentioned by Naumann as reaching the age of thirty-two years (l. c., p. 76).

Fowls live ten to twenty years, the golden pheasant fifteen years, the turkey sixteen years, and the pigeon ten years (Oken, ‘Naturgeschichte, Vögel,' p. 387).

A golden eagle which ‘died at Vienna in the year 1719, had been captured 104 years previously' (Brehm, ‘Leben der Vögel,' p. 72).

A falcon (species not mentioned) is said to have attained an age of 162 years (Knauer, ‘Der Naturhistoriker,' Vienna, 1880).

A white-headed vulture which was taken in 1706 died in the Zoological Gardens at Vienna (Schönbrunn) in 1824, thus living 118 years in captivity (l. c.).

The example of the bearded vulture, mentioned in the text, is quoted from Schinz's ‘Vögel der Schweiz,' p. 196.

The wild goose must live for upwards of 100 years, according to Naumann (l. c., p. 127). The proof of this is not, however, forthcoming. A wild goose which had been wounded reached its eighteenth year in captivity.

Swans are said to have lived 300 years(?), (Naumann, l. c., p. 127).

It is evident that observations upon the duration of life in wild birds can only rarely be made, and that they are usually the result of chance and cannot be verified. It is on this account all the more to be desired that every ascertained fact should be collected.

If the long life of birds has been correctly interpreted as compensation for their feeble fertility and for the great mortality of their young, it will be possible to estimate the length of life in a species, without direct observation, if we only know its fertility and the percentage of individuals destroyed. This percentage can, however, at best, be known only as an average. If we consider, for example, the enormous number of sea birds which breed in summer on the rocks and cliffs of the northern seas, and if we remember that the majority of these birds lay but one, or at most two eggs yearly, and that their young are exposed to very many destructive agencies, we are forced to the conclusion that they must possess a very long life, so that the breeding period may be many times repeated. Their number does not diminish. Year after year countless numbers of these birds cover the rocks, from summit to sea line; millions of them rest there, and rise in the air like a thick cloud whenever they are disturbed. Even in those localities which are every year visited by man in order to effect their capture, the number does not appear to decrease, unless the birds are disturbed and are therefore prompted to seek other breeding-places. From the small island of St. Kilda, off Scotland, 20,000 young gannets (Sula ) and an immense number of eggs are annually collected; and although this bird only lays a single egg yearly and takes four years to attain maturity, the numbers do not diminish [6]. 30,000 sea-gulls' eggs and 20,000 terns' eggs are yearly exported from the breeding-places on the island of Sylt, but in this case it appears that a systematic disturbance of the birds is avoided by the collectors, and no decrease in their numbers has yet taken place [7]. The destruction of northern birds is not only caused by man, but also by various predaceous mammals and birds. Indeed the dense mass of birds which throng the cliffs is a cause of destruction to many of the young and to the eggs, which are pushed over the edge of the rocks. According to Brehm the foot of these cliffs is ‘always covered with blood and the dead bodies of fledglings.'

Such birds must attain a great age or they would have been exterminated long ago: the minimum duration of life necessary for the maintenance of the species must in their case be a very high one.

Note 2. The Duration of Life among Mammals

The statements upon this subject in the text are taken from many sources; from Giebel's ‘Säugethiere,' from Oken's ‘Naturgeschichte,' from Brehm's ‘Illustrirtem Thierleben,' and from an essay of Knauer in the ‘Naturhistoriker,' Vienna, 1880.

Note 3. The Duration of Life among Mature Insects

A short statement of the best established facts which I have been able to find is given below. I have omitted the lengthening of imaginal life which is due to hybernation in certain species. In almost all orders of insects there are certain species which emerge from the pupa in the autumn, but which first reproduce in the following spring. The time spent in the torpid condition during winter cannot of course be reckoned with the active life of the species, for its vital activity is either entirely suspended for a time by freezing (Anabiosis : Preyer [8]), or it is at any rate never more than a vita minima, with a reduction of assimilation to its lowest point.

The following account does not make any claim to contain all or even most of the facts scattered through the enormous mass of entomological literature, and much less all that is privately known by individual entomologists. It must therefore be looked upon as merely a first attempt, a nucleus, around which the principal facts can be gradually collected. It is unnecessary to give any special information as to the duration of larval life, for numerous and exact observations upon this part of the subject are contained in all entomological works.

I. Orthoptera.

Gryllotalpa. The eggs are laid in June or July, and the young are hatched in from two to three weeks; they live through the winter, and become sexually mature in the following May or June. ‘When the female has deposited her eggs, her body collapses, and afterwards she does not survive much longer than a month.' ‘According as the females are younger or older, they live a longer or shorter life, and hence some females are even found in the autumn' (Rösel, ‘Insektenbelustigungen,' Bd. II. p. 92). Rösel believes that the female watches the eggs until they are hatched, and this explains the fact that she outlives the process of oviposition by about a month. It is not stated whether the males die at an earlier period.

Gryllus campestris  becomes sexually mature in May, and sings from June till October, ‘when they all die' (Oken, ‘Naturgeschichte,' Bd. II. Abth. iii. p. 1527). It is hardly probable that any single individual lives for the whole summer; probably, as in the case of Gryllotalpa, the end of the life of those individuals which first become mature, overlaps the beginning of the life of others which reach maturity at a later date.

Locusta viridissima  and L. verrucivora  are mature at the end of August; they lay their eggs in the earth during the first half of September and then die. It is probable that the females do not live for more than four weeks in the mature state. It is not known whether the males of this or other species of locusts live for a shorter period.

I have found Locusta cantans  in plenty, from the beginning of September to the end of the month. In captivity they die after depositing their eggs: the males are probably more short-lived, for towards the middle and end of September they are much less plentiful than the females.

Acridium migratorium  ‘dies after the eggs are laid' (Oken, ‘Naturgeschichte').

The male Termes  probably live for a short time only, although exact observations upon the point are wanting. The females ‘seem sometimes to live four or five years,' as I gather from a letter from Dr. Hagen, of Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A.

Ephemeridae. Rösel, speaking of Ephemera vulgata  (‘Insektenbelustigungen,' Bd. II. der Wasserinsekten, 2 te  Klasse, p. 60 et seq.), says:—‘Their flight commences at sunset, and comes to an end before midnight, when the dew begins to fall.' ‘The pairing generally takes place at night and lasts but a short time. As soon as the insects have shed their last skin, in the afternoon or evening, they fly about in thousands, and pair almost immediately; but by the next day they are all dead. They continue to emerge for many days, so that when yesterday's swarm is dead, to-day a new swarm is seen emerging from the water towards the evening.' ‘They not only drop their eggs in the water, but wherever they may happen to be,—on trees, bushes, or the earth. Birds, trout and other fish lie in wait for them.'

Dr. Hagen writes to me—‘It is only in certain species that life is so short. The female Palingenia  does not live long enough to complete the last moult of the sub-imago. I believe that a female imago has never been seen. The male imago, often half in its sub-imago skin, fertilizes the female sub-imago and immediately the contents of both ovaries are extruded, and the insect dies. It is quite possible that the eggs pass out by rupturing the abdominal segments.'

Libellula. All dragon-flies live in the imago condition for some weeks; at first they are not capable of reproduction, but after a few days they pair.

Lepisma saccharina. An individual lived for two years in a pill-box, without any food except perhaps a little Lycopodium  dust [9].

II. Neuroptera.

Phryganids  ‘live in the imago stage for at least a week and probably longer, apparently without taking food' (letter from Dr. Hagen).

According to the latest researches Phrygane grandis [10] never contains food in its alimentary canal, but only air, although it contains the latter in such quantities that the anterior end of the chylific ventricle is dilated by it.

III. Strepsiptera.

The larva requires for its development a rather shorter time than that which is necessary for the grub of the bee into the body of which it has bored. The pupa stage lasts eight to ten days. The male, which flies about in a most impetuous manner, lives only two to three hours, while the female lives for some days. Possibly the pairing does not take place until the female is two to three days old. The viviparous female seems to produce young only once in a lifetime, and then dies: it is at present uncertain whether she also produces young parthenogenetically (cf. Siebold, ‘Ueber Paedogenesis der Strepsipteren,' Zeitschr. f. Wissensch. Zool., Band. XX, 1870).

IV. Hemiptera.

Aphis. Bonnet (‘Observations sur les Pucerons,' Paris, 1745) had a parthenogenetic female of Aphis euonymi  in his possession for thirty-one days, from its birth, during which time it brought forth ninety-five larvae. Gleichen kept a parthenogenetic female of Aphis mali  fifteen to twenty-three days.

Aphis foliorum ulmi. The mother of a colony which leaves the egg in May is 2‴ long at the end of July: it therefore lives for at least two and a half months (De Geer, ‘Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der Insekten,' 1783, III. p. 53).

Phylloxera vastatrix. The males are merely ephemeral sexual organisms, they have no proboscis and no alimentary canal, and die immediately after fertilizing the female.

Pemphigus terebinthi. The male as well as the female sexual individuals are wingless and without a proboscis; they cannot take food and consequently live but a short time,—far shorter than the parthenogenetic females of the same species (Derbès, ‘Note sur les aphides du pistachier térébinthe,' Ann. des sci. nat., Tom. XVII, 1872).

Cicada. In spite of the numerous and laborious descriptions of the Cicadas which have appeared during the last two centuries, I can only find precise statements as to the duration of life in the mature insect in a single species. P. Kalm, writing upon the North American Cicada septemdecim, which sometimes appears in countless numbers, states that ‘six weeks after (such a swarm had been first seen) they had all disappeared.' Hildreth puts the life of the female at from twenty to twenty-five days. This agrees with the fact that the Cicada lays many hundred eggs (Hildreth states a thousand); sixteen to twenty at a time being inserted into a hole which is bored in wood, so that the female takes some time to lay her eggs (Oken, ‘Naturgeschichte,' 2 ter  Bd. 3 te  Abth. p. 1588 et seq.).

Acanthia lectularia. No observations have been made upon the bed bug from which the normal length of its life can be ascertained, but many statements tend to show that it is exceedingly long-lived, and this is advantageous for a parasite of which the food (and consequently growth and reproduction) is extremely precarious. They can endure starvation for an astonishingly long period, and can survive the most intense cold. Leunis (‘Zoologie,' p. 659) mentions the case of a female which was shut up in a box and forgotten: after six months' starvation it was found not only alive but surrounded by a circle of lively young ones. Göze found bugs in the hangings of an old bed which had not been used for six years: ‘they appeared white like paper.' I have myself observed a similar case, in which the starving animals were quite transparent. De Geer placed some bugs in an unheated room in the cold winter of 1772, when the thermometer fell to -33°C: they passed the whole winter in a state of torpidity, but revived in the following May. (De Geer, Bd. III. p. 165, and Oken, ‘Naturgeschichte,' 2 ter  Bd. 3 te  Abth. p. 1613.)

V. Diptera.

Pulex irritans. Oken says of the flea (‘Naturgeschichte,' Bd. II. Abth. 2, p. 759) that ‘death follows the deposition of the eggs in the course of two or three days, even if the opportunity of sucking blood is given them.' The length of time which intervenes between the emergence from the cocoon and fertilization or the deposition of eggs is not stated.

Sarcophaga carnaria. The female fly dies ten to twelve hours after the birth of the viviparous larvae; the time intervening between the exit from the cocoon and the birth of the young is not given (Oken, quoting Réaumur, ‘Mém. p. s. à l'hist. Insectes,' Paris, 1740-48, IV).

Musca domestica. In the summer the common house-fly begins to lay eggs eight days after leaving the cocoon: she then lays several times. (See Gleichen, ‘Geschichte der gemeinen Stubenfliege,' Nuremberg, 1764.)

Eristalis tenax. The larva of this large fly lives in liquid manure, and has been described and figured by Réaumur as the rat-tailed larva. I kept a female which had just emerged from the cocoon, from August 30th till October 4th, in a large gauze-covered glass vessel. The insect soon learnt to move freely about in its prison, without attempting to escape; it flew round in circles, with a characteristic buzzing sound, and obtained abundant nourishment from a solution of sugar, provided for it. From September 12th it ceased to fly about, except when frightened, when it would fly a little way off. I thought that it was about to die, but matters took an unexpected turn, and on the 26th of September it laid a large packet of eggs, and again on the 29th of the same month another packet of similar size. The flight of the animal had been probably impeded by the weight of the mass of ripe eggs in its body. The deposition of eggs was probably considerably retarded in this case, because fertilization had not taken place. The fly died on the 4th of October, having thus lived for thirty-five days. Unfortunately, I have been unable to make any experiments as to the duration of life in the female when males are also present.

VI. Lepidoptera.

I am especially indebted to Mr. W. H. Edwards [11], of Coalburgh, W. Virginia, and to Dr. Speyer, of Rhoden, for valuable letters relating to this order.

The latter writes, speaking of the duration of life in imagos generally:—‘It is, to my mind, improbable that any butterfly can live as an imago for a twelvemonth. Specimens which have lived through the winter are only rarely seen in August, even when the summer is late. A worn specimen of Vanessa cardui  has, for instance, been found at this time' (‘Entomolog. Nachrichten,' 1881, p. 146).

In answer to my question as to whether the fact that certain Lepidoptera take no solid or liquid food, and are, in fact, without a functional mouth, may be considered as evidence for an adaptation of the length of life to the rapid deposition of eggs, Dr. Speyer replies:—‘The wingless females of the Psychidae  do not seem to possess a mouth, at any rate I cannot find one in Psyche unicolor  (graminella ). They do not leave the case during life, and certainly do not drink water. The same is true of the wingless female of Heterogynis, and of Orgyia ericae, and probably of all the females of the genus Orgyia ; and as far as I can judge from cabinet specimens, it is probably true of the males of Heterogynis  and Psyche. I have never seen the day-flying SaturnidaeBombycidae, and other Lepidoptera with a rudimentary proboscis, settle in damp places, or suck any moist substance, and I doubt if they would ever do this. The sucking apparatus is probably deficient.'

In answer to my question as to whether the males of any species of butterfly or moth are known to pass a life of different length from that of the female, Dr. Speyer stated that he knew of no observations on this point.

The following are the only instances of well-established direct observations upon single individuals, in my possession [12]:—

Pieris napi, var. bryoniae  [male] and [female], captured on the wing: lived in confinement ten days, and were then killed.

Vanessa prorsa  lived at most ten days in confinement.

Vanessa urticae  lived ten to thirteen days in confinement.

Papilio ajax. According to a letter from Mr. W. H. Edwards, the female, when she leaves the pupa, contains unripe eggs in her body, and lives for about six weeks—calculating from the first appearance of this butterfly to the disappearance of the same generation [13]. The males live longer, and continue to fly when very worn and exhausted. A worn female is very seldom seen;—‘I believe the female does not live long after laying her eggs, but this takes some days, and probably two weeks.'

Lycaena violacea. According to Mr. Edwards, the first brood of this species lives three to four weeks at the most.

Smerinthus tiliae. A female, which had just emerged from the pupa, was caught on June 24th; on the 29th pairing took place; on the 1st of July she laid about eighty eggs, and died the following day. She lived nine days, taking no food during this period, and she only survived the deposition of eggs by a single day.

Macroglossa stellatarum. A female, captured on the wing and already fertilized, lived in confinement from June 28th to July 4th. During this time she laid about eighty eggs, at intervals and singly; she then disappeared, and must have died, although the body could not be found among the grass at the bottom of the cage in which she was confined.

Saturnia pyri. A pair which quitted the cocoons on the 24th or 25th of April, remained in coitu from the 26th until May 2nd—six or seven days; the female then laid a number of eggs, and died.

Psyche graminella. The fertilized female lives some days, and the unfertilized female over a week (Speyer).

Solenobia triquetrella. ‘The parthenogenetic form (I refer to the one which I have shown to be parthenogenetic in Oken's ‘Isis,' 1846, p. 30) lays a mass of eggs in the abandoned case, soon after emergence. The oviposition causes her body to shrivel up, and some hours afterwards she dies. The non-parthenogenetic female of the same species remains for many days, waiting to be fertilized; if this does not occur, she lives over a week.' ‘The parthenogenetic female lives for hardly a day, and the same is true of the parthenogenetic females of another species of Solenobia ' (S. inconspicuella ?). Letter from Dr. Speyer.

Psyche calcella, O. The males live a very short time; ‘those which leave the cocoon in the evening are found dead on the following morning, with their wings fallen off, at the bottom of their cage.' Dr. Speyer.

Eupithecia, sp. (Geometridae ), ‘when well-fed, live for three to four weeks in confinement; the males fertilize the females frequently, and the latter continue to lay eggs when they are very feeble, and are incapable of creeping or flying.' Dr. Speyer.

The conclusions and speculations in the text seem to be sufficiently supported from this short series of observations. There remains, as we see, much to be done in this field, and it would well repay a lepidopterist to undertake some exact observations upon the length of life in different butterflies and moths, with reference to the conditions of life—the mode of egg-laying, the degeneracy of the wings, and of the external mouth-parts or the closure of the mouth itself. It would be well to ascertain whether such closure does really take place, as it undoubtedly does in certain plant-lice.

VII. Coleoptera.

Melolontha vulgaris. Cockchafers, which I kept in an airy cage with fresh food and abundant moisture, did not in any case live longer than thirty-nine days. One female only, out of a total number of forty-nine, lived for this period; a second lived thirty-six days, a third thirty-five, and a fourth and fifth twenty-four days; all the rest died earlier. Of the males, only one lived as long as twenty-nine days. These periods are less by some days than the true maximum duration of life, for the beetles were captured in the field, and had lived for at least a day; but the difference cannot be great, when we remember that out of forty-nine beetles, only three females lived thirty-five to thirty-nine days, and only one male twenty-nine days. Those that died earlier had probably lived for some considerable time before being caught.

Exact experiments with pupae which have survived the winter would show whether the female really lives for ten days more than the male, or whether the results of my experiment were merely accidental. I may add that coitus frequently took place during the period of captivity. One pair, observed in this condition on the 17th, separated in the evening; they paired again on the morning of the 18th, and separated in the middle of the day. Coitus took place between another pair on the 22nd, and again on the 26th.

I watched the gradual approach of death in many individuals: some days before it ensued, the insects became sluggish, ceased to fly and to eat, and only crept a little way off when disturbed: they then fell to the ground and remained motionless, apparently dead, but moved their legs when irritated, and sometimes automatically. Death came on gradually and imperceptibly; from time to time there was a slow movement of the legs, and at last, after some hours, all signs of life ceased.

In one case only I found bacteria present in great numbers in the blood and tissues; in the other individuals which had recently died, the only noticeable change was the unusual dryness of the tissues.

Carabus auratus. An experiment with an individual, caught on May 27th, gave the length of life at fourteen days; this is probably below the average, since the beetles are found, in the wild state, from the end of May until the beginning of July.

Lucanus cervus. Captured individuals, kept in confinement, and fed on a solution of sugar, never lived longer than fourteen days, and as a rule not so long. The beetles appear in June and July, and certainly cannot live much over a month. As is the case with many beetles appearing during certain months, the length of the individual life is shorter than the period over which they are found. Accurate information, especially as to any difference between the lengths of life in the sexes, is not obtainable.


Isolated accounts of remarkably long lives among beetles are to be found scattered throughout the literature of the subject. Dr. Hagen, of Cambridge, Mass., has been kind enough to draw my attention to these, and to send me some observations of his own.

Cerambyx heros. One individual lived in confinement from August until the following year [14].

Saperda carcharias. An individual lived from the 5th of July until the 24th of July of the next year [15].

Buprestis splendens. A living individual was removed from a desk which had stood in a London counting-house for thirty years; from the condition of the wood it was evident that the larva had been in it before the desk was made [16].

Blaps mortisaga. One individual lived three months, and two others three years.

Blaps fatidica. One individual which was left in a box and forgotten, was found alive when the box was opened six years afterwards.

Blaps obtusa. One lived a year and a half in confinement.

Eleodes grandis  and E. dentipes. Eight of these beetles from California were kept in confinement and without food for two years by Dr. Gissler, of Brooklyn; they were then sent to Dr. Hagen who kept them another year.

Goliathus cacicus. One individual lived in a hot-house for five months.

In addition to these cases, Dr. Hagen writes to me: ‘Among the beetles which live for more than a year,—BlapsPasimachus, (Carabidae )—and among ants, almost thirty per cent. are found with the cuticle worn out and cracked, and the powerful mandibles so greatly worn down that species were formerly founded upon this point. The mandibles are sometimes worn down to the hypodermis.'

From the data before me I am inclined to believe that in certain beetles the normal length of life extends over some years, and this is especially the case with the Blapidae. It seems probable that in these cases another factor is present,—a vita minima, or apparent death, a sinking of the vital processes to a minimum in consequence of starvation, which we might call the hunger sleep, after the analogy of winter sleep. The winter sleep is usually ascribed to cold alone, and some insects certainly become so torpid that they appear to be dead when the temperature is low. But cold does not affect all insects in this way. Among bees, for example, the activity of the insects diminishes to a marked extent at the beginning of winter, but if the temperature continues to fall, they become active again, run about, and as the bee-keepers say, ‘try to warm themselves by exercise'; by this means they keep some life in them. If the frost is very severe, they die. In the tropics the period of hibernation for many animals coincides with the time of maximum heat and drought. This shows that the organism can be brought into the condition of a vita minima  in various ways, and it would not be at all remarkable if such a state were induced in certain insects by hunger. Exact experiments however are the only means by which such a suggestion can be tested, and I have already commenced a series of experiments. The fact that certain beetles live without food for many years (even six) can hardly be explained on any other supposition, for these insects consume a fair amount of food under normal conditions, and it is inconceivable that they could live for years without food, if the metabolism were carried on with its usual energy.

A very striking example, showing that longevity may be induced by the lengthening of the period of reproductive activity, is communicated to me by Dr. Adler in the following note: ‘Three years ago I accidentally noticed that ovoviviparous development takes place in Chrysomela varians,—a fact which I afterwards discovered had been already described by another entomologist.

‘The egg passes through all the developmental stages in the ovary; when these are completed the egg is laid, and a minute or two afterwards the larva breaks through the egg-shell. In each division of the ovary the eggs undergo development one at a time; it therefore follows that they are laid at considerable intervals, so that a long life becomes necessary in order to ensure the development of a sufficiently long series of eggs. Hence it comes about that the females live a full year. Among other species of Chrysomela  two generations succeed each other in a year, and the duration of life in the individual varies from a few months to half a year.'

VIII. Hymenoptera.

Cynipidae. I have been unable to find any accurate accounts of the duration of life in the imagos of saw-flies or ichneumons; but on the other hand I owe to the kindness of Dr. Adler, an excellent observer of the Cynipidae, the precise accounts of that family which are in my possession. I asked Dr. Adler the general question as to whether there was any variation in the duration of life among the Cynipidae corresponding to the conditions under which the deposition of eggs took place; whether those species which lay many eggs, or of which the oviposition is laborious and protracted, lived longer than those species which lay relatively few eggs, or easily and quickly find the suitable places in which to deposit them.

Dr. Adler fully confirmed my suppositions and supported them by the following statements:—

‘The summer generation of Neuroterus  (Spathegaster ) has the shortest life of all Cynipidae. Whether captured or reared from the galls I have only kept them alive on an average for three to four days. In this generation the work of oviposition requires the shortest time and the least expenditure of energy, for the eggs are simply laid on the surface of a leaf. The number of eggs in the ovary is also smaller than that of other species, averaging about 200. This form of Cynips  can easily lay 100 eggs a day.

‘The summer generation of Dryophanta  (Spathegaster Taschenbergiverrucosus, etc.) lives somewhat longer; I have kept them in confinement for six to eight days. The oviposition requires a considerable expenditure of time and strength, for the ovipositor has to pierce the rather tough mid-rib or vein of a leaf. The number of eggs in the ovary averages 300 to 400.

‘The summer generation of Andricus, which belongs to the extensive genus Aphilotrix, have also a long life. I have kept the smaller Andricus  (such as A. nudusA. cirratusA. noduli ) alive for a week, and the larger (A. inflatorA. curvatorA. ramuli ) for two weeks. The smaller species pierce the young buds when quite soft, but the larger ones bore through the fully grown buds protected by tough scales. The ovary of the former contains 400 to 500 eggs, that of the latter over 600.

‘The agamic winter generations live much longer. The species of Neuroterus  have the shortest life; they live for two weeks at the outside; on the other hand, species of Aphilotrix  live quite four weeks, and Dryophanta  and Biorhiza  even longer. I have kept Dryophanta scutellaris  alive for three months. The number of eggs in these agamic Cynipidae  is much larger: Dryophanta  and Aphilotrix  contain 1200 and Neuroterus  about 1000.'

It is evidently, therefore, a general rule that the duration of life is directly proportional to the number of eggs and to the time and energy expended in oviposition. It must of course be understood that, here as in all other instances, these are not the only factors which determine the duration of life, but many other factors, at present unknown, may be in combination with them and assist in producing the result. For example, it is very probable that the time of year at which the imagos appear exerts some indirect influence. The long-lived Biorhiza  emerges from the gall in the middle of winter, and at once begins to deposit eggs in the oak buds. Although the insect is not sensitive to low temperature, for I have myself seen oviposition proceeding when the thermometer stood at 5° R., yet very severe frost would certainly lead to interruption and would cause the insect to shelter itself among dead leaves on the ground. Such interruptions may be of long duration and frequently repeated, so that the remarkably long life of this species may perhaps be looked upon as an adaptation to its winter life.

Ants. Lasius flavus  lays its eggs in the autumn, and the young larvae pass the winter in the nest. The males and females leave the cocoons in June, and pair during July and August. The males fly out of the nest with the females, but they do not return to it; ‘they die shortly after pairing.' It is also believed that the females do not return to the nest, but found new colonies; this point is however one of the most uncertain in the natural history of ants. On the other hand it is quite certain that the female may live for years within the nest, continuing to lay fertilized eggs. Old females are sometimes found in the colony, with their jaws worn down to the hypodermis.

Breeding experiments confirm these statements. P. Huber [17] and Christ have already put the life of the female at three to four years, and Sir John Lubbock, who has been lately occupied with the natural history of ants, was able to keep a female worker of Formica sanguinea  alive for five years; and he has been kind enough to write and inform me that two females of Formica fusca, which he captured in a wood together with ten workers, in December 1874, are still alive (July 1881), so that these insects live as imagos for six and a half years or more [18].

On the other hand, Sir John Lubbock never succeeded in keeping the males ‘alive longer than a few weeks.' Both the older and more recent observers agree in stating that female ants, like queen bees, are always protected as completely as possible from injury and danger. Dr. A. Forel, whose thorough knowledge of Swiss ants is well known, writes to me,—‘The female ants are only once fertilized, and are then tended by the workers, being cleaned and fed in the middle of the nest: one often finds them with only three legs, and with their chitinous armour greatly worn. They never leave the centre of the nest, and their only duty is to lay eggs.'

With regard to the workers, Forel believes that their constitution would enable them to live as long as the females (as the experiments of Lubbock also indicate), and the fact that in the wild state they generally die sooner than the females is ‘certainly connected with the fact that they are exposed to far greater dangers.' The same relation seems also to obtain among bees, but with them it has not been shown that in confinement the workers live as long as the queens.

Bees. According to von Berlepsch [19] the queen may as an exception live for five years, but as a rule survives only two or three years. The workers always seem to live for a much shorter period, generally less than a year. Direct experiments upon isolated or confined bees, or upon marked individuals in the wild state, do not prove this, but the statistics obtained by bee-keepers confirm the above. Every winter the numbers in a hive diminish from 12,000-20,000 to 2000-3000. The queen lays the largest number of eggs in the spring, and the workers which die before the winter are replaced by those which emerge in the summer, autumn or during a mild winter. The queen lays eggs at such a variable rate throughout the year that the above-mentioned inequality in numbers is explained. The workers do not often live for more than six to seven months, and at the time of their greatest labour, (May to July), only three months. An attempt to calculate the length of life of the workers and drones by taking stock at the end ofsummer, gives six months for the former and four months for the latter [20].

The drones do not as a rule live so long as four months, for they meet with a violent death before the end of this period. The well-known slaughter of the drones is not, according to the latest observations, brought about directly by means of the stings of the workers, but by these latter driving away the useless drones from the food so that they perish of starvation.

Wasps. It is interesting that among these near relations of the bees, the life of the female should be much shorter, corresponding to the much lower degree of specialization found in the colonies. The females of Polistes gallica  and of Vespa  not only lay eggs but take part in building the cells and in collecting food; they are therefore obliged to use all parts of the body more actively and especially the wings, and are exposed to greater danger from enemies.

It is well known from Leuckart's observations, that the so-called ‘workers' of Polistes gallica  and Bombus  are not arrested females like the workers of a bee-hive, but are females which although certainly smaller, are in every way capable of being fertilized and of reproduction. Von Siebold has nevertheless proved that they are not fertilized, but reproduce parthenogenetically.

The fertilized female which survives the winter, commences to found a colony at the beginning of May: the larvæ, which hatch from the first eggs, which are about fifteen in number, become pupæ at the beginning of June, and the imagos appear towards the end of the same month. These are all small ‘workers,' and they perform such good service in tending the second brood, that the latter attain the size of the female which founded the colony; only differing from her in the perfect condition of their wings, for by this time her wings are greatly worn away.

The males appear at the beginning of July; their spermatozoa are mature in August, and pairing then takes place with certain ‘special females which require fertilization' which have in the meantime emerged from their cocoons. These are the females which live through the winter and found new colonies in the following spring. The old females of the previous winter die, and do not live beyond the summer at the beginning of which they founded colonies. At the first appearance of frost, the young fertilized females seek out winter quarters; the males which never survive the winter, do not take this course, but perish in October. The parthenogenetic females, which remain in the nest during the nuptial flight, also perish.

The males of Polistes gallica  do not live longer than three months—from July to the beginning of October; the parthenogenetic females live a fortnight longer at the outside—from the middle of June to October, but the later generations have a shorter life. The sexual females alone live for about a year, including the winter sleep.

A similar course of events takes place in the genus Vespa. In both these genera the possibility of reproduction is not restricted to a single female in the nest, but is shared by a number of females. In the genus Apis  alone is the division of labour complete, so that only a single female (the queen) is at any one time capable of reproduction, a power which differentiates it from the sterile workers.

Note 4. The Duration of Life of the Lower Marine Animals

I have only met with one definite statement in the literature of this part of the subject. It concerns a sea anemone,—which is a solitary and not a colonial form. The English zoologist Dalyell, in August, 1828, removed an Actinia mesembryanthemum  from the sea and placed it in an aquarium [21]. It was a very fine individual, although it had not quite attained the largest size; and it must have been at least seven years old, as proved by comparison with other individuals reared from the egg. In the year 1848, it was about thirty years old, and in the twenty years during which it had been in captivity it had produced 334 young Actiniae. Prof. Dohrn, of Naples, tells me that this Actinia is still living to-day, and is shown as a curiosity to those who visit the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh. It is now (1882) at least sixty-one years old [22].

Note 5. The Duration of Life in Indigenous Terrestrial and Fresh-water Mollusca

I am indebted to Herr Clessin—the celebrated student of our mollusca—for some valuable notes upon our indigenous snails and bivalves (Lamellibranchiata ). I could not incorporate them in the text, for a number of necessary details as to the conditions of life are at present entirely unknown, or are at least only known in a very fragmentary manner. No statistics as to the amount of destruction suffered by the young are available, and even the number of eggs produced annually is only known for a few species. I nevertheless include Herr Clessin's very interesting communications, as a commencement to the life statistics of the Mollusca.

(1) ‘Vitrinae  are annual; the old animals die in the spring, after having produced the spawn from which the young develope. These continue to grow until the following spring.'

(2) ‘The Succineae  are mostly biennial; Succinea putris  probably triennial. Fertilization takes place from June till the beginning of August, and the young develope until the autumn. Succinea Pfeifferi  and S. elegans  live through the winter, and the fact is proved by very distinct annual markings. Reproduction takes place in July and August of the following year, and they die in the autumn. They continue to grow until their death.'

(3) ‘The shells of our native species of PupaClausilia, and Bulimus  (with the exception of Bulimus detritus ) show but faint annual markings. They can hardly require more than two years for their complete development. The great number of living individuals with full-sized shells belonging to these genera, as compared with the number which possess smaller shells, makes it probable that these animals live in the mature condition longer than our other Helicidae. I have always found full-sized shells present in at least two-thirds of the individuals of these genera characterized by much-coiled shells—a proportion which I have never seen among our larger Helicidae. Nevertheless direct observations as to the length of life in the mature condition are still wanting.'

(4) ‘The Helicidae  live from two to four years; Helix sericeaH. hispida, two to three years; H. hortensisH. nemoralisH. arbustorum, as a rule three years; H. pomatia  four years. Fertilization is not in these species strictly confined to any one time of year, but in the case of old animals takes place in the spring, as soon as the winter sleep is over; while in the two-year-old animals it also happens later in the summer.'

(5) ‘The Hyalineae  are mostly biennial: they seldom live three years, and even in the largest species such an age is probably exceptional. The smallest Hyalineae  and Helicidae  live at most two years. The length of life is dependent upon the time at which the parents are fertilized, for this decides whether the young begin to shift for themselves early in the summer or later in the autumn, and so whether the first year's growth is large or small.'

(6) ‘The species of LimnaeusPlanorbis, and Ancylus  live two to three years, that is they take two to three years to attain the full size. L. auricularis  is mostly biennial, L. palustris  and L. pereger  two to three years: I have found that the latter, in the mountains at Oberstorf in the Bavarian Alps, may exceptionally attain the age of four years, that is, it may possess three clearly defined annual markings, whilst the specimens from the plain never showed more than two.'

(7) ‘The Paludinidae  attain an age of three or four years.'

(8) ‘The smaller bivalves, Pisidium  and Cyclas, do not often live for more than two years: the larger Najadae, on the other hand, often live for more than ten years, and indeed they are not full grown until they possess ten to fourteen annual markings. It is possible that habitat may have great influence upon the length of life in this order.'

Unio  and Anodonta  become sexually mature in the third to the fifth year.'

As far as I am aware but few statements exist upon the length of life in marine mollusca, and these are for the most part very inexact. The giant bivalve Tridacna gigas  must attain an age of 60 to 100 years [23]. All Cephalopods  live for at least over a year, and most of them well over ten years; and the giant forms, sometimes mistaken for ‘sea-serpents,' must require many decades in which to attain such a remarkable size. L. Agassiz has determined the length of life in a large sea snail, Natica heros, by sorting a great number of individuals according to their sizes: he places it at 30 years [24].

I am glad to be able to communicate an observation made at the Zoological Station at Naples upon the length of life in Ascidians. The beautiful white Cionea intestinalis  has settled in great numbers in an aquarium at the Station, and Professor Dohrn tells me that it produces three generations annually, and that each individual lives for about five months, and then reproduces itself and dies. External conditions accounting for this early death have not been discovered.

It is known that the freshwater Polyzoa  are annual, but it is not known whether the first individuals produced from a colony in the spring, live for the whole summer. The length of life is also unknown in single individuals of any marine Polyzoon.

Clessin's accurate statements upon the freshwater Mollusca, previously quoted, show that a surprisingly short length of life is the general rule. Only those forms of which the large size requires that many years shall elapse before the attainment of sexual maturity, live ten years or over (UnioAnodonta ); indeed, our largest native snail (Helix pomatia ) only lives for four years, and many small species only one year, or two years if the former time is insufficient to render them sexually mature. These facts seem to indicate, as I think, that these molluscs are exposed to great destruction in the adult state, indeed to a greater extent than when they are young, or, at any rate, to an equal extent. The facts appear to be the reverse of those found among birds. The fertility is enormous; a single mussel contains several hundred thousand eggs; the destruction of young as compared with the number of eggs produced is distinctly smaller than in birds, therefore a much shorter duration of the life of each mature individual is rendered possible, and further becomes advantageous because the mature individuals are exposed to severe destruction.

However it can only be vaguely suggested that this is the case, for positive proofs are entirely absent. Perhaps the destruction of single mature individuals does not play so important a part as the destruction of their generative organs. The ravages of parasitic animals (Trematodes ) in the internal organs of snails and bivalves are well known to zoologists. The ovaries of the latter are often entirely filled with parasites, and such animals are then incapable of reproduction.

Besides, molluscs have many enemies, which destroy them both on land and in water. In the water,—fish, frogs, newts, ducks and other water-fowl, and on land many birds, the hedgehog, toads, etc., largely depend upon them for food.

If the principles developed in this essay apply to the freshwater Mollusca, we must then infer that snails which maintain the mature condition—the capability of reproduction—for one year, are in this state more exposed to destruction from the attacks of enemies than those species which remain sexually mature for two or three years, or that the latter suffer from a greater proportional loss of eggs and young.

Note 6. Unequal Length of Life in the two Sexes

This inequality is frequently found among insects. The males of the remarkable little parasites infesting bees, the Strepsiptera, only live for two to three hours in the mature condition, while the wingless, maggot-like, female lives eight days: in this case, therefore, the female lives sixty-four times as long as the male. The explanation of these relations is obvious; a long life for the male would be useless to the species, while the relatively long life of the female is a necessity for the species, inasmuch as she is viviparous, and must nourish her young until their birth.

Again, the male of Phylloxera vastatrix  lives for a much shorter period than the female, and is devoid of proboscis and stomach, and takes no food: it fertilizes the female as soon as the last skin has been shed and then dies.

Insects are not the only animals among which we find inequality in the length of life of the two sexes. Very little attention has been hitherto directed to this matter, and we therefore possess little or no accurate information as to the duration of life in the sexes, but in some cases we can draw inferences either from anatomical structure or from the mode of development. Thus, male Rotifers  never possess mouth, stomach, or intestine, they cannot take food, and without doubt live much shorter lives than the females, which are provided with a complete alimentary canal. Again, the dwarf males of many parasitic Copepods —low Crustacea—and the ‘complementary males' of Cirrhipedes  (or barnacles) are devoid of stomach, and must live for a much shorter time than the females; and the male Entoniscidae  (a family of which the species are endo-parasitic in the larger Crustacea), although they can feed, die after fertilizing the females; while the latter then take to a parasitic life, produce eggs, and continue to live for some time. It is supposed that the dwarf male of Bonellia viridis  does not live so long by several years as the hundred times larger female, and it too has no mouth to its alimentary canal. These examples might be further increased by reference to zoological literature.

In most cases the female lives longer than the male, and this needs no special explanation; but the converse relation is conceivable, when, for instance, the females are much rarer than the males, and the latter lose much time in seeking them. The above-mentioned case of Aglia tau  probably belongs to this category.

We cannot always decide conclusively whether the life of one sex has been lengthened or that of the other shortened; both these changes must have taken place in different cases. There is no doubt that a lengthening of life in the female has arisen in the bees and ants, for both sexes of the saw-flies, which are believed to be the ancestors of bees, only live for a few weeks. But among the Strepsiptera  the shorter life of the male must have been secondarily acquired, since we only rarely meet with such an extreme case in insects.

Note 7. Bees

It has not been experimentally determined whether the workers, which are usually killed after some months, would live as long as the queen, if they were artificially protected from danger in the hive; but I think that this is probable, because it is the case among ants, and because the peculiarity of longevity must be latent in the egg. As is well known, the egg which gives rise to the queen is identical with that which produces a worker, and differences in the nutrition alone decide whether a queen or a worker shall be formed. It is therefore probable that the duration of life in queen and worker is potentially the same.

Note 8. Death of the Cells in higher Organisms

The opinion has been often expressed that the inevitable appearance of normal ‘death' is dependent on the wearing out of the tissues in consequence of their functional activity. Bertin says, referring to animal life [25]:—‘L'observation des faits y attache l'idée d'une terminaison fatale, bien que la raison ne découvre nullement les motifs de cette nécessité. Chez les êtres qui font partie du règne animal l'exercise même de la rénovation moléculaire finit par user le principe qui l'entretient sans doute parceque le travail d'échange ne s'accomplissant pas avec une perfection mathématique, il s'établit dans la figure, comme dans la substance de l'être vivant, une déviation insensible, et que l'accumulation des écarts finit par amener un type chimique ou morphologique incompatible avec la persistance de ce travail.'

Here the replacement of the used-up elements of tissue by new ones is not taken into account, but an attempt is made to show that the functions of the whole organism necessarily cause it to waste away. But the question at once arises, whether such a result does not depend upon the fact that the single histological elements,—the cells,—are worn out by the exercise of function. Bertin admits this to be the case, and this idea of the importance of changes in the cells themselves is everywhere gaining ground. But although we must admit that the histological elements do, as a matter of fact, wear out, in multicellular animals, this would not prove that, nor explain why, such changes must follow from the nature of the cell and the vital processes which take place within it. Such an admission would merely suggest the question:—how is it that the cells in the tissues of higher animals are worn out by their function, while cells which exist in the form of free and independent organisms possess the power of living for ever? Why should not the cells of any tissue, of which the equilibrium is momentarily disturbed by metabolism, be again restored, so that the same cells continue to perform their functions for ever:—why cannot they live without their properties suffering alteration? I have not sufficiently touched upon this point in the text, and as it is obviously important it demands further consideration.

In the first place, I think we may conclude with certainty from the unending duration of unicellular organisms, that such wearing out of tissue cells is a secondary adaptation, that the death of the cell, like general death, has arisen with the complex, higher organisms. Waste does not depend upon the intrinsic nature of the cells, as the primitive organisms prove to us, but it has appeared as an adaptation of the cells to the new conditions by which they are surrounded when they come into combination, and thus form the cell-republic of the metazoan body. The replacement of cells in the tissues must be more advantageous for the functions of the whole organism than the unlimited activity of the same cells, inasmuch as the power of single cells would be much increased by this means. In certain cases, these advantages are obvious, as for example in many glands of which the secretions are made up of cast-off cells. Such cells must die and be separated from the organism, or the secretion would come to an end. In many cases, however, the facts are obscure, and await physiological investigation. But in the meantime we may draw some conclusions from the effects of growth, which are necessarily bound up with a certain rate of production of new cells. In the process of growth a certain degree of choice between the old cells which have performed their functions up to any particular time, and the new ones which have appeared between them, is as it were left to the organism.

The organism may thus, figuratively speaking, venture to demand from the various specific cells of tissues a greater amount of work than they are able to bear, during the normal length of their life, and with the normal amount of their strength. The advantages gained by the whole organism might more than compensate for the disadvantages which follow from the disappearance of single cells. The glandular secretions which are composed of cell-detritus, prove that the cells of a complex organism may acquire functions which result in the loosening of their connexion with the living cell-community of the body, and their final separation from it. And the same facts hold with the blood corpuscles, for the exercise of their function results in ultimate dissolution. Hence it is not only conceivable, but in every way probable, that many other functions in the higher organisms involve the death of the cells which perform them, not because the living cell is necessarily worn out and finally killed by the exercise of any ordinary vital process, but because the specific functions in the economy of the cell community which such cells undertake to perform, involve the death of the cells themselves. But the fact that such functions have appeared,—involving as they do the sacrifice of a great number of cells,—entirely depends upon the replacement of the old by newly formed cells, that is by the process of reproduction in cells [26].

We cannot a priori  dispute the possibility of the existence of tissues in which the cells are not worn out by the performance of function, but such an occurrence appears to be improbable when we recollect that the cells of all tissues owe their constitution to a very far-reaching process of division of labour, which leaves them comparatively one-sided, and involves the loss of many properties of the unicellular, self-sufficient organism. At any rate we only know of potential immortality in the cells which constitute independent unicellular organisms, and the nature of these is such that they are continually undergoing a complete process of reformation.

If we did not find any replacement of cells in the higher organism, we should be induced to look upon death itself as the direct result of the division of labour among the cells, and to conclude that the specific cells of tissues have lost, as a consequence of the one-sided development of their activities, the power of unending life, which belongs to all independent primitive cells. We should argue that they could only perform their functions for a certain time, and would then die, and with them the organism whose life is dependent upon their activity. The longer they are occupied with the performance of special functions, the less completely do they carry out the phenomena of life, and hence they lead to the appearance of retrogressive changes. But the replacement of cells is certain in many tissues (in glands, blood, etc.), so that we can never seek a satisfactory explanation in the train of reasoning indicated above, but we must assume the existence of limits to the replacement of cells. In my opinion, we can find an explanation of this in the general relations of the single individual to its species, and to the whole of the external conditions of life; and this is the explanation which I have suggested and have attempted to work out in the text.

Note 9. Death by Sudden Shock

The most remarkable example of this kind of death known to me, is that of the male bees. It has been long known that the drone perishes while pairing, and it was usually believed that the queen bites it to death. Later observations have however shown that this is not the case, but that the male suddenly dies during copulation, and that the queen afterwards bites through the male intromittent organ, in order to free herself from the dead body. In this case death is obviously due to sudden excitement, for when the latter is artificially induced, death immediately follows. Von Berlepsch made some very interesting observations on this point, ‘If one catches a drone by the wings, during the nuptial flight, and holds it free in the air without touching any other part, the penis is protruded and the animal instantly dies, becoming motionless as though killed by a shock. The same thing happens if one gently stimulates the dorsal surface of the drone on a similar occasion. The male is in such an excited and irritable condition that the slightest muscular movement or disturbance causes the penis to be protruded [27].' In this case death is caused by the so-called nervous shock. The humble-bees are not similarly constituted, for the male does not die after fertilizing the female, ‘but withdraws its penis and flies away.' But the death of male bees, during pairing, must not be regarded as normal death. Experiment has shown that these insects can live for more than four months [28]. They do not, as a matter of fact, generally live so long; for—although the workers do not, as was formerly believed, kill them after the fertilization of the queen, by direct means—they prevent them from eating the honey and drive them from the hive, so that they die of hunger [29].

We must also look upon death which immediately, or very quickly, follows upon the deposition of eggs as death by sudden shock. The females of certain species of Psychidae, when they reproduce sexually, may remain alive for more than a week waiting for a male: after fertilization, however, they lay their eggs and die, while the parthenogenetic females of the same species lay their eggs and die immediately after leaving the cocoon; so that while the former live for many days, the latter do not last for more than twenty-four hours. ‘The parthenogenetic form of Solenobia triquetrella, soon after emergence, lays all her eggs together in the empty case, becomes much shrunken, and dies in a few hours.' (Letter from Dr. Speyer, Rhoden.)

Note 10. Intermingling during the Fission of Unicellular Organisms [30]

Fission is quite symmetrical in Amoebae, so that it is impossible to recognise mother and daughter in the two resulting organisms. But in Euglypha  and allied forms the existence of a shell introduces a distinguishing mark by which it is possible to discriminate between the products of fission; so that the offspring can be differentiated from the parent. The parent organism, before division, builds the parts of the shell for the daughter form. These parts are arranged on the surface of that part of the protoplasm, external to the old shell, which will be subsequently separated as the daughter-cell. On this part the spicules are arranged and unite to form the new shell. The division of the nucleus takes place after that of the protoplasm, so that the daughter-cell is for some time without a nucleus. Although we can in this species recognise the daughter-cell for some time after separation from the parent by the greater transparency of its younger shell, it is nevertheless impossible to admit that the characteristics of the two animals are in any way different, for just before the separation of the two individuals a circulation of the protoplasm through both shells takes place after the manner described in the text, and there is therefore a complete intermingling of the substance of the two bodies.

The difference between the products is even greater after transverse fission of the Infusoria, for a new anus must be formed at the anterior part and a new mouth posteriorly. It is not known whether any circulation of the protoplasm takes place, as in Euglypha. But even if this does not occur, there is no reason for believing that the two products of division possess a different duration of life.

The process of fission in the Diatomaceae  seems to me to be theoretically important, because here, as in the previously-mentioned Monothalamia  (Euglypha, etc.), the new silicious skeleton is built up within the primary organism, but not, as in Euglypha, for the new individual only, but for both parent and daughter-cell alike [31]. If we compare the diatom shell to a box, then the two halves of the old shell would form two lids, one for each of the products of fission, while a new box is built up afresh for each of them. In this case there is an absolute equality between the products of fission, so far as the shell is concerned.

Note 11. Regeneration

A number of experiments have been recently undertaken, in connection with a prize thesis at Würzburg, in order to test the powers of regeneration possessed by various animals. In all essential respects the results confirm the statements of the older observers, such as Spallanzani. Carrière has also proved that snails can regenerate not only their horns and eyes, but also part of the head when it has been cut off, although he has shown that Spallanzani's old statement that they can regenerate the whole head, including the nervous system, is erroneous [32].

Note 12. The Duration of Life in Plants

The title of the work on this subject mentioned in the Text is ‘Die Lebensdauer und Vegetationsweise der Pflanzen, ihre Ursache und ihre Entwicklung,' F. Hildebrand, Engler's botanische Jahrbücher, Bd. II. 1. und 2. Heft, Leipzig, 1881.

Note 13

[Many interesting facts and conclusions upon the subject of this essay will be found in a volume by Professor E. Ray Lankester, ‘On comparative Longevity in Man and the lower Animals,' Macmillan and Co., 1870.—E. B. P.]


Footnotes for the Appendix to Essay I

1.  Humboldt's ‘Ausichten der Natur.'

2.  This estimate is derived from observation of the time during which these insects are to be seen upon the wing. Direct observations upon the duration of life in this species are unknown to me.

3.  [Sir John Lubbock has now kept a queen ant alive for nearly 15 years. See note 2 {note 18 below} on p. 51.—E. B. P.]

4.  [After reading these proofs Dr. A. R. Wallace kindly sent me an unpublished note upon the production of death by means of natural selection, written by him some time between 1865 and 1870. The note contains some ideas on the subject, which were jotted down for further elaboration, and were then forgotten until recalled by the argument of this Essay. The note is of great interest in relation to Dr. Weismann's suggestions, and with Dr. Wallace's permission I print it in full below.

The Action of Natural Selection in Producing Old Age, Decay, and Death.

‘Supposing organisms ever existed that had not the power of natural reproduction, then since the absorptive surface would only increase as the square of the dimensions while the bulk to be nourished and renewed would increase as the cube, there must soon arrive a limit of growth. Now if such an organism did not produce its like, accidental destruction would put an end to the species. Any organism therefore that, by accidental or spontaneous fission, could become two organisms, and thus multiply itself indefinitely without increasing in size beyond the limits most favourable for nourishment and existence, could not be thus exterminated: since the individual only could be accidentally destroyed,—the race would survive. But if individuals did not die they would soon multiply inordinately and would interfere with each other's healthy existence. Food would become scarce, and hence the larger individuals would probably decompose or diminish in size. The deficiency of nourishment would lead to parts of the organism not being renewed; they would become fixed, and liable to more or less slow decomposition as dead parts within a living body. The smaller organisms would have a better chance of finding food, the larger ones less chance. That one which gave off several small portions to form each a new organism would have a better chance of leaving descendants like itself than one which divided equally or gave off a large part of itself. Hence it would happen that those which gave off very small portions would probably soon after cease to maintain their own existence while they would leave a numerous offspring. This state of things would be in any case for the advantage of the race, and would therefore, by natural selection, soon become established as the regular course of things, and thus we have the origin of old agedecay, and death ; for it is evident that when one or more individuals have provided a sufficient number of successors they themselves, as consumers of nourishment in a constantly increasing degree, are an injury to those successors. Natural selection therefore weeds them out, and in many cases favours such races as die almost immediately after they have left successors. Many moths and other insects are in this condition, living only to propagate their kind and then immediately dying, some not even taking any food in the perfect and reproductive state.'—E. B. P.]

5.  Johannes Müller, ‘Physiologie,' Bd. I. p. 31, Berlin, 1840.

6.  Oken, ‘Naturgeschichte,' Stuttgart, 1837, Bd. IV. Abth. 1.

7.  Brehm, ‘Leben der Vögel,' p. 278.

8.  ‘Naturwissenschaftliche Thatsachen und Probleme,' Populäre Vorträge, Berlin, 1880; vide Appendix.

9.  ‘Entomolog. Mag.,' vol. i. p. 527, 1833.

10.  Imhof, ‘Beiträge zur Anatomie der Perla maxima,' Inaug. Diss., Aarau, 1881.

11.  Mr. Edwards has meanwhile published these communications in full; cf. ‘On the length of life of Butterflies,' Canadian Entomologist, 1881, p. 205.

12.  When no authority is given, the observations are my own.

13.  In the paper quoted above, Edwards, after weighing all the evidence, reduces the length of life from three to four weeks.

14.  ‘Entomolog. Mag.,' vol. i. p. 527, 1823.

15.  Ibid.

16.  Ibid.

17.  ‘Recherches sur les mœurs des Fourmis indigènes,' Genève, 1810.

18.  These two female ants were still alive on the 25th of September following Sir John Lubbock's letter, so that they live at least seven years. Cf. ‘Observations on Ants, Bees, and Wasps,' Part VIII. p. 385; Linn. Soc. Journ. Zool., vol. xv. 1881.

[Sir John Lubbock has kindly given me further information upon the duration of life of these two queen ants. Since the receipt of his letter, the facts have been published in the Journal of the Linnean Society (Zoology), vol. xx. p. 133. I quote in full the passage which refers to these ants:—

Longevity.—It may be remembered that my nests have enabled me to keep ants under observation for long periods, and that I have identified workers of Lasius niger  and Formica fusca which were at least seven years old, and two queens of Formica fusca  which have lived with me ever since December 1874. One of these queens, after ailing for some days, died on the 30th July, 1887. She must then have been more than thirteen years old. I was at first afraid that the other one might be affected by the death of her companion. She lived, however, until the 8th August, 1888, when she must have been nearly fifteen years old, and is therefore by far the oldest insect on record.

‘Moreover, what is very extraordinary, she continued to lay fertile eggs. This remarkable fact is most interesting from a physiological point of view. Fertilization took place in 1874 at the latest. There has been no male in the nest since then, and, moreover, it is, I believe, well established that queen ants and queen bees are fertilized once for all. Hence the spermatozoa of 1874 must have retained their life and energy for thirteen years, a fact, I believe, unparalleled in physiology.'


‘I had another queen of Formica fusca  which lived to be thirteen years old, and I have now a queen of Lasius niger  which is more than nine years old, and still lays fertile eggs, which produce female ants.'

Both the above-mentioned queens may have been considerably older, for it is impossible to estimate their age at the time of capture. It is only certain (as Sir John Lubbock informs me in his letter) that they must have been at least nine months old (when captured), as the eggs of F. fusca are laid in March or early in April.' The queens became gradually ‘somewhat lethargic and stiff in their movements (before their death), but there was no loss of any limb nor any abrasion.' This last observation seems to indicate that queen ants may live for a much longer period in the wild state, for it is stated above that the chitin is often greatly worn, and some of the limbs lost (see pp.48, 51, and 52).—E. B. P.]

19.  A. von Berlepsch, ‘Die Biene und ihre Zucht,' etc., 3rd ed.; Mannheim, 1872.

20.  E. Bevan, ‘Ueber die Honigbiene und die Länge ihres Lebens;' abstract in Oken's ‘Isis,' 1844, p. 506.

21.  Dalyell, ‘Rare and Remarkable Animals of Scotland,' vol. ii. p. 203; London, 1848.

22.  [Mr. J. S. Haldane has kindly obtained details of the death of the sea anemone referred to by the author. It died, by a natural death, on August 4, 1887, after having appeared to become gradually weaker for some months previous to this date. It had lived ever since 1828 in the same small glass jar in which it was placed by Sir John Dalyell. It must have been at least 66 years old when it died.—E.B.P.]

23.  Bronn, ‘Klassen und Ordnungen des Thierreichs,' Bd. III. p. 466; Leipzig.

24.  Bronn, l. c.

25.  Cf. the article ‘Mort' in the ‘Encyclop. Scienc. Méd.' vol. M. p. 520.

26.  Roux, in his work ‘Der Kampf der Theile im Organismus,' Jena 1881, has attempted to explain the manner in which division of labour has arisen among the cells of the higher organisms, and to render intelligible the mechanical processes by which the purposeful adaptations of the organism have arisen.

27.  von Berlepsch, ‘Die Biene und ihre Zucht,' etc.

28.  Oken, ‘Isis,' 1844, p. 506.

29.  von Berlepsch, l. c., p. 165.

30.   Cf. August Gruber, ‘Der Theilungsvorgang bei Euglypha alveolata,' and ‘Die Theilung der monothalamen Rhizopoden,' Z. f. W. Z., Bd. XXXV. and XXXVI., p. 104, 1881.

31.  Cf. Victor Hensen, ‘Physiologie d. Zeugung,' p. 152.

32.  Cf. J. Carrière, ‘Ueber Regeneration bei Landpulmonaten,' Tagebl. der 52. Versammlg. deutsch. Naturf. pp. 225-226.