Friday, April 10, 2009

Darwin's Egg Rediscovered

Charles Darwin, considered the father of evolution, once traveled on the HMS Beagle, collecting eggs and other specimens throughout his trip. Amongst these were eggs from different birds. At one time, up to a dozen of these eggs were thought to exist, but none have ever been found... until now.

A volunteer at Cambridge University was sorting the eggs in the museum's collection when she came upon a small, brown egg that was cracked and bears the inscription, "C Darwin." The collections manager, Matt Lowe, was the first to realize the egg's importance. The museum's ornithological curator, Dr. Michael Brooke, traced the egg back through Professor Alfred Newton's notebooks. Newton was a zoologist and peer of Darwin's, who wrote about receiving the egg in the mail.

Newton's notes say Darwin packed the egg in too small a box, causing the crack. He goes on to say Darwin came across it in Uruguay and it is from the Common Tinamou, indigenous to those parts. Darwin originally mistook the bird for a partridge and wrote that its cooked meat was "most delicately white."

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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