whswhs (whswhs) wrote in linguaphiles,

help with French idiom

I've been making my way through Cuvier's La règne animal, an early survey of animal classification and comparative anatomy. In the introduction, he writes, Les êtres organisés ont même la faculté de reproduire dans une degré variable, selon leurs espèces, certaines de leurs parties quand elles leurs sont enlevées.

The first parts seem clear. But the final part, starting with certaines, perplexes me. It looks as if it meant "determined in their proportions when they are taken away from them," but I can't see how that makes sense in this context. I think I must be missing some nuance of meaning of at least one word—certaines, or parties, or enlevées—or perhaps mistaking the syntax. Can anyone help?

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