Darwin egg from Beagle voyage found by museum volunteer

Apr 10, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- An egg collected by Charles Darwin while on HMS Beagle - and thought to be the last such specimen known to exist - has been rediscovered by an octogenarian volunteer at Cambridge University's Zoology Museum.

And records seem to indicate that Darwin himself was responsible for damage caused to the heavily cracked egg after packing it in too small a box during or following his famous voyage from 1831-36.

The chocolate brown egg, one of 16 collected on the naturalist's trip, was among the many items being catalogued by volunteer Liz Wetton.

Liz has spent half a day at the Museum each week for the past ten years where she faithfully sorts and reboxes the Museum's bird egg collection.

She merely commented the specimen had C. Darwin written on it before moving to the next drawer.

But it was only when Collections Manager Mathew Lowe was reviewing her work that he discovered no one knew about the existence of this specimen.

He said: "There are so many historical treasures in the collection, Liz did not realise this was a new discovery. To have rediscovered a Beagle specimen in the 200th year of Darwin's birth is special enough, but to have evidence that Darwin himself broke it is a wonderful twist."

After reading Liz's notes, Lowe and Curator of Ornithology Dr Mike Brooke, traced the specimen's origin in the notebook of Professor Alfred Newton, a friend of Darwin's and Professor of Zoology in the latter 19th Century.

Newton had written: "One egg, received through Frank Darwin, having been sent to me by his father who said he got it at Maldonado (Uruguay) and that it belonged to the Common Tinamou of those parts.

"The great man put it into too small a box and hence its unhappy state."

Museum Director Professor Michael Akam said: "This find shows just how valuable the work of our loyal volunteers is to the Museum. Only Liz has examined each of the many thousands of in our collection. Without her we would not have found this unique specimen."

Volunteer Liz Wetton said: "It was an exhilarating experience. After working on the egg collections for ten years this was a tremendous thing to happen."

Provided by University of Cambridge (news : web)

Explore further: Oregon food label measure headed for recount

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Darwin's bills discovered

Apr 01, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- You've seen the documentaries and read the book - now, for the first time, you can find out how Charles Darwin spent his money.

Evolution revolution

Nov 22, 2005

The blue-footed booby, the giant turtle and the horned toad are among several unusual creatures currently on show at The American Museum of Natural History. They form part of new exhibition, running until May ...

Museum unveils world's largest T-rex skull

Apr 07, 2006

The world's largest Tyrannosaurus rex skull, unearthed nearly 40 years ago in eastern Montana, is now on display at the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University in Bozeman.

Recommended for you

Oregon food label measure headed for recount

Nov 25, 2014

Tallies of the last remaining ballots show an Oregon measure that would require labeling of genetically modified foods lost by only 809 votes and is headed for an automatic recount.

How photosynthesis changed the planet

Nov 20, 2014

Two and a half billion years ago, single-celled organisms called cyanobacteria harnessed sunlight to split water molecules, producing energy to power their cells and releasing oxygen into an atmosphere that ...

From dried cod to tissue sample preservation

Nov 19, 2014

Could human tissue samples be dried for storage, instead of being frozen? Researchers are looking at the salt cod industry for a potential tissue sample drying technology that could save money without sacrificing tissue quality.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

randyb
not rated yet Apr 10, 2009
Oh brother, another Darwin obsession article... This article contributes absolutely zero to science.
Volunteer Liz Wetton said: "It was an exhilarating experience." ??? Give me a break...
docknowledge
not rated yet Apr 10, 2009
Yeah, I smiled, thought about all the treasures still be be found in museum warehouses. But really, you're right randyb, it's not news that should have bumped other stories off the top 10 most popular on the BBC today. Extraordinary things are being found every week: http://www.archae...rg/news/

Still, the article does give pause for thought. Maybe that's a purpose.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.