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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Dana   [before 6 December 1855]1

– I have not a well defined dissection to appeal to. I have so often, as I remark above, seen the mouth far posterior to the organs referred to, that I had hardly doubted the relation I have suggested until you expressed your opinion about it.—2 I was not aware of the objectionable character of the terms Kingdom & Subkingdom as I have used them in my Chapter on Dist. of Crustacea,3 until I read your inferences from them.

The Study of Crustacea had led me to regard the two American Coasts Eastern & Western, as having a nearer relation to one another than to other coasts or Seas;4 and also Western Africa & the Pacific as having in general resemblance in the range of Species. On this account, or to exhibit this relation, I divided the earth into three meridional Sections, the Occidental, Africo European & Oriental, which I unfortunately named Kingdoms. All the earlier half of my Chapter had exhibited the fact that the several zones of temperature, the torrid, temperate & frigid, and even the subzones were very different in species from one another, and that the species of the same zone over the world were more closely related than species of different zones on any coast. In using the term Occidental Kingdom, I did not mean to imply that the species of the temperate zone had any close resemblance or any resemblance at all to those of the Torrid zone in this Kingdom: But only that the range of species as a whole from North to South differed strikingly from the range of species in the Africo-European Section: So in Subdividing the Oriental Kingdom, I did not mean to imply that the species of Temperate New Holland were allied to those of the East Indies, more than to those of New Zealand; for this would be contrary to the Grand law of distribution based on temperature.5 In fact New Zealand and Southern Australia, & especially Tasmania, have quite close relations in species, though not as close, as far as I have studied the Species as between New Zealand & western S. America from Chili to Tierra del Fuego. I should say however that the species of Tasmania have not yet been particularly described or Catalogued and it is possible that a stronger resemblance may be made out than we now know of.— (On our own coast Cape Cod off Massachusetts is a very remarkable boundary both for species of Mollusca and Crustacea).—

I regret that I did not use the term Section in place of Kingdom.6 But the species seemed to me to be so different, between the Sections—that is the temperate of one from the temperate of the other &c &c that I chose the stronger term—looking at the three Kingdoms as in a certain Sense an independent Kingdom of Species in Creation—a difference due still in a large degree to the different sea temperatures along the coasts. But I will not detain you longer. I would give much to have the pleasure of talking over the subject with you.— Please mention to Mr Lubbock that his letter and his valued paper7 came to hand safely. I am greatly interested in all his labors and gratified with them.

I am out of patience that my plates are not yet out—8 They are all engraved and almost ready. But I cannot hurry the person who has charge of them, and so 〈they〉 linger. I am always delighted to hear from you and of 〈    〉

Very sincerely 〈yours〉 | James D. Dana


Dated by a note in CD’s hand headed ‘Dec 6/55/’ which begins: ‘Dana in letter says [’colder water‘ del] Crustacea have not highest development in Tropics—’ (DAR 205.3: 175). The letter seems to be part of a reply to a lost letter from CD concerning the homologies of cirripede larvae and the geographical distribution of Crustacea. Dana’s letter was inserted between pp. 1588 and 1589 of CD’s copy of Dana 1853.
See letter to J. D. Dana, 6 December [1853], in which CD reaffirmed his earlier statements to Dana concerning the location and homologies of the various parts in the larval stages of cirripedes.
The references are to Dana’s discussion of the geographical distribution of Crustacea in Dana 1852–3, pp. 1451–1592, reprinted separately in Dana 1853. Dana used the term ‘kingdom’ to denote the ‘grand divisions of the seas and coasts … [which] have very few species in common, and they correspond to a natural geographical arrangement’ (Dana 1853, p. 1554).
Dana had made the same point in Dana 1853, p. 1557. CD marked the passage in his copy and noted: ‘Evidently far more relation between E & W America than in shells & more species in common: but I can hardly judge’. CD may have reiterated his comment in a letter to Dana, for he had found the opposite in the geographical distribution of cirripedes: species from the east coast of America and the coasts of Europe were ‘most intimately allied’ and the area formed CD’s ‘first or North Atlantic province’ (Living Cirripedia (1854): 167).
In Living Cirripedia (1854): 168, CD had written: Mr. Dana joins the East Indian Archipelago and Australia into his single Oriental province, and makes New Zealand, as a sub-province, apparently as distinct from Australia, as Australia is from the East Indian Archipelago: whereas I find that the Cirripedes of New Zealand clearly belong to Australia; and that the Australian Cirripedes, especially if the temperate shores be alone considered, are as distinct from those of the East Indian Archipelago, as from those of any other quarter of the whole world.
CD had used the expression ‘sections, or provinces’ in Living Cirripedia (1854): 167 to denote the regions in which the animals were found. On the cover of his copy of Dana 1853, CD wrote: ‘Mr D. regrets he used the word Kingdom for his main divisions of the world. I do not quite understand his views yet.—’
The Atlas to Dana 1852–3 was completed in 1855 but was not readily available until 1861 (NUC). In a letter of 9 September 1855 to John Lubbock, however, Dana wrote that ‘at least 4 copies of the Atlas of the Crustacea must be now in England, in the hands of Trubner & Co if not disposed of, and another may possibly have reached the Linnean Society’ (Lubbock Papers, Add. 49638, British Library). The delay was in part owing to a fire that had destroyed many of the original drawings and delayed or prevented the colouring of the plates.


Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.

Lubbock, John. 1855. On the freshwater Entomostraca of South America. [Read 7 May 1855.] Transactions of the Entomological Society of London n.s. 3: 232–40.

NUC: The national union catalog. Pre-1956 imprints. 685 vols. and supplement (69 vols.). London and Chicago: Mansell. 1968–81.


Responds to CD’s criticism of his use of word "Kingdom" in discussing geographical distribution of Crustacea.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Dwight Dana
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR (CD library – Dana, J. D. 1853)
Physical description
4pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1544,” accessed on 17 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5