The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Charles Darwin's Egg, 200 YO

An egg collected by naturalist Charles Darwin on his
HMS Beagle voyage which has been rediscovered at a museum.

Photo: PA

Researchers have known that the naturalist collected 16 bird eggs during his trip between 1831 and 1836 but all were thought to be lost.

But one sample – that of the Tinamou bird of Uruguay - has been discovered by a volunteer as she catalogued a collection at the Zoology Museum.

The 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.

The chocolate brown egg – slightly smaller than a hen's egg – was among the museum's 10,000 strong collection from Darwin being partly catalogued by volunteer Liz Wetton.

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

It was only when Mathew Lowe, Collections Manager, 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.

Prof 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 eggs in our collection. Without her we would not have found this unique specimen."

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


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