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Letter 7227

Mivart, St G. J. to Darwin, C. R.

11 June 1870


Asks by what action CD believes bee, spider, and fly orchids came to resemble their namesakes

and how the beauty of bivalves could have been produced by natural or sexual selection.


7 North Bank | N.W.

June 11th. 1870

My dear Sir.

I should be very much obliged if you would kindly tell me bywhat action you think the curious resemblance of the Bee, Spider& Fly Ophrys to the several insects has been produced—f1 It is I thinkfar too marked & striking to be accidental!

I have also great difficulty in seeing by what possible action of naturalor sexual selection the beauty of bivalves can have been produced and Ishould be grateful for any hint from you on the subject which (unlessyou tell me I may quote) I shall consider confidentialf2

I feel sure you will kindly excuse my thus troubling you & remain

My dear Sir | Always Your’s very truly | St G Mivart

C. Darwin Esqr.

DAR 171: 188



The bee, spider, and fly ophrys are, in CD’s Orchids, Ophrysapifera, O. aranifera, and O. muscifera. Ophrys aranifera is a synonym ofO. sphegodes; O. muscifera is a synonym of O. insectifera.
Mivart discussed the appearance of the bee, fly, and spiderorchids, and of bivalve shellfish, in his book on the theory ofnatural selection, Mivart 1871, pp. 54–5. In Orchids, pp. 68–9, CD hadwritten, ‘Robert Brown imagined that the flowers resembled bees inorder to deter insects from visiting them; I cannot think thisprobable. The equal or greater resemblance of the Fly Ophrys to aninsect does not deter the visits of some unknown insect, which, inthat species, are indispensable for the act of fertilisation.’
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