Discusses the transport of seeds by birds. William Thompson received letters on this subject from CD in 1848 and from Edward Forbes in 1850. Encloses copies of Thompson's reply to Forbes's letter of 23 Feb 1850 and of Thompson's notes (1848–51) on transport of seeds by birds.
17 College Sq
My dear M
The subject referred to in M
I have found the two letters in M
The taxidermist alluded to in the reply to Forbes's note, is
I venture to make the following suggestions, altho' there may not be any novelty in them:—
The accompanying note respect.
(I have been obliged to lay aside this letter since
It contained vegetable matter mixed with about a tablespoonful of sand & on separating the former I found the calyx or seed vessel (I could
not with certainty say which) of a small plant— The
seeds themselves may or may not have been mixed with the sand in this particular case,
but the presence of any of the parts concerned in fructification shows that these birds
do not merely crop the leaves or roots; & the
Magillivray, altho he throws doubt upon the old & often repeated opinion that the seeds of the Misseltoe germinate after passing through the intestines of the Missel-thrush, admits that on 2 occasions he found whole seeds in the intestines of birds (See his Br. birds V. 2. p. 125) & Balfour in his Classbook of Botany says:— “The pulpy covering of some fruits renders them fit for the food of birds & other animals, and when the seeds are hard & enclosed in a stony endocarp, they may escape the action of the gastric juice & be deposited in a state fit for germination.”
- f1 1608.f1Irish solicitor and botanist friend of William Thompson. Thompson had died in 1852, and Patterson was an executor of Thompson's estate. Patterson must have forwarded this letter to CD.
- f2 1608.f2This letter has not been found.
- f3 1608.f3The Athenæum, no. 1168, 16 March 1850, p. 290, reported on Edward Forbes's lecture at the Royal Institution ‘On the distribution of freshwater animals and plants’. Thompson was mentioned in the report.
- f4 1608.f4The memorandums referred to by Garrett were passed on to CD by Patterson. They are in DAR 205.2 (Letters), but have not been transcribed here.
- f5 1608.f5Garrett refers to a paper by Charles Martins (Martins 1849) printed in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, from which Thompson had extracted passages to send to Forbes. The extract was copied out for Patterson and enclosed with the letter. It has not been transcribed here.
- f6 1608.f6William Darragh, curator of the museum of the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society, 1844–91, was described at the outset of his career as ‘the best taxidermist in Ireland in respect of birds’. (J. N. H. Nesbitt, personal communication).
- f7 1608.f7William MacGillivray's History of British birds (MacGillivray 1837–52), with annotations by CD, is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
- f8 1608.f8Balfour 1852–4, 2: 614.