Darwin egg from Beagle voyage found by museum volunteer

April 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: Paleontologist reflects on Darwinian connections

Related Stories

Darwin's bills discovered

April 1, 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

November 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 2006, of animals ...

Museum unveils world's largest T-rex skull

April 7, 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

New hermit crab uses live coral as its home

September 20, 2017

A new hermit crab species can live in a walking coral's cavity in a reciprocal relationship, replacing the usual marine worm partner, according to a study published September 20, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by ...

The right way to repair DNA

September 20, 2017

Is it better to do a task quickly and make mistakes, or to do it slowly but perfectly? When it comes to deciding how to fix breaks in DNA, cells face the same choice between two major repair pathways. The decision matters, ...

Barn owls found to suffer no hearing loss as they age

September 20, 2017

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers with the University of Oldenburg has found that barn owls do not suffer hearing loss as they get older. In their paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the group describes ...

Bats anticipate optimal weather conditions

September 20, 2017

Millions of animals fly, swim or walk around the Earth every year. To ensure that they reach their destination, they need to perceive precise changes in environmental conditions and choose the right moment to set off on their ...

2 comments

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.