A typical quote used to explain the theory of evolution by natural selection is:

"Variation is a feature of natural populations and every population produces more progeny than its environment can manage. The consequences of this overproduction is that those individuals with the best genetic fitness for the environment will produce offspring that can more successfully compete in that environment. Thus the subsequent generation will have a higher representation of these offspring and the population will have evolved." - Charles Darwin

Does anyone know the exact source for this quote (i.e. where Darwin wrote or said it)?

P.S. I have tried 'On the Origin of Species' and some of his other works but I can't seem to find it.


1 Answer 1


(What I'm trying to say is too long for a comment, but I'm not sure it's an answer...)

Are you sure this is an exact quote? A fast research in Google books of the text or of part of it has provided no results. The concept expressed is very similar to the following, from On the Origin of Species, Chapter III: Struggle for existence, page 61:

Owing to this struggle for life, any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring. The offspring, also, will thus have a better chance of surviving, for, of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man's power of selection.

On a less serious note...

Here is something completely original: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=71

alt-text: alt-text

  • $\begingroup$ You may be right, although the quote I have given can be found in numerous secondary sources. So I'm not sure. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Quantumspaghettification yes, I've seen it, but the fact that none of them tells where it comes from is a bit suspicious - it sounds more like a paraphrase than an exact quotation. $\endgroup$
    – mrnld
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 16:13
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    $\begingroup$ Internet sites are all pasted from one another. They are not secondary sources, at best tertiary. $\endgroup$
    – fdb
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 23:20
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    $\begingroup$ Just for the sake of clarity, in the text that you have linked to the quote is given in page 61 rather then 62. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ I think we can agree that this "quotation" is fake. Did Darwin ever actually say that "every population produces more progeny than its environment can manage", or any other words to that effect? This is not my understanding of what Darwin believed. $\endgroup$
    – fdb
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 0:15

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