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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Henry Benson   5 December 1855

– Cyclophorus Aurora B. Hab. neighbourhood of Darjiling Sikkim Himalaya specimens numerous, collected for me by a resident at the station, and by a friend who visited it 15 years afterwards.1 The station is about 7000 feet elevation, but it is probable that the species inha〈bi〉ts the surrounding valleys at a lower elevation.

The same shell at Chyabasa, Singhbhoom, in the southern part of the Mountain group of Bahár, on the authority of a single specimen (perfectly identical with one of the Sikkim Varieties) in the collection of Mr E L Layard, and probably obtained by him from Mr Blyth Curator of the Calcutta Museum

My own researches in the intermediate valley of the Ganges and those of Dr. Bacon2 up to the very foot of the Sikkim ranges, shew that neither this nor any other species of Cyclostoma, occurs in the intervening plains. Another Cyclophorus (C. Pyritrema B) takes it’s place on the Northern outlier of the Bahár group bordering the Gangetic plain—

Note— I have ascertained, from examination of Dr Pfeiffers3 type specimen of C. stenomphalus Pfr, which was confounded by him, with C. aurora B. that his shell is only a specimen, in very bad condition, of C. Indicus Desh., a species which occurs in the Concan near Bombay, & the adjacent islets, & quite distinct from C. Aurora. C. stenomphalus is asserted, on the authority of Mr. Cuming’s collection,4 to be an inhabitant of the Khasya Hills, SE of the Berhampooter River. It is more likely to be C. Aurora than C. Indicus, but I have never seen it in any collection from the Khasyah Hills— It’s place is there taken by C. zebrenus B & C. Peurseni B, (of which I suspect that C. Bensoni Pfr is a mere local variety) and by a shell attributed, erroneously I believe, by Pfeiffer to C. eximius Mouss: a Javanese species.

Cyclophorus stenostoma Sow: Hab. Top of Nilgherries in woods. Jerdon—5 E Layard has sent this to me as from Ceylon,6 but without any definite locality. I wrote to him expressing a doubt, and requesting further information. Apparently it was not found by himself— Sowerby7 gives the habitat Yemen, a very doubtful one— Cochin China is given by Delaport.8 Souleyet9 did not meet with it there, & I consider that “Cochin”, a port near the Nilgherries must have been intended—

Pterocyclus bilabiatus Sow. Hab. Forest at the base of Nilgherries Jerdon Salem. S.W. Heath Sent by E Layard as Cingalese under the same conditions as the last

〈Ac〉hatina Ceylanica Pfr. Nilgherries Jerdon not of Conch Iconica which is A Punctogallana Pfr. (the same as A Orophila B) brought by Capt Templeton,10 E Layard & F Layard11 from different points of the Mountain zone of Ceylon It is apparently deficient in the Northen Cingalese low country, with reference to E Layard’s Journal.12

Helix marcida B. Hab. Mountain group of Ceylon E Layard. I could find no character to 〈d〉istinguish this from a Nilgherry shell found by Jerdon, except by a slight difference in size—

H〈e〉lix fastigiata Hutton. Simla Hutton. Landour Benson at 7000 feet. I can find no sufficient character to distinguish this little species from a shell obtained by Jerdon at the summit of the Nilgherries, and which I first called in mss H. Turbinella

Note— This is one of the best ascertained facts of the occurrence of the same species at a high elevation in two of our Indian ranges. It is certainly deficient in the intervening country both hill and plain—as far as it has been explored— The whole of the plain & much of the hill tract comes under this category.

Bulimus Bengalensis Lk Hab. Lower Bengal I have found it from Calcutta to Berhampore below the fork of the Gangetic Delta and have received it from the base of the hills SW of Calcutta It is quite deficient in the whole of the Gangetic tract ab〈o〉ve the head of the Delta, but, curiously enough, was found by an Officer (whose name has just now escaped from my recollection), attaining a large size, near Soobattoo, in the Western Himalaya below Simlah, and not far from the R. Sutlej. Jerdon has also sent it to me from the Forests of Malabar. It does not quite answer your requirements but its unusually wide diffusion & absence from extensive intermediate tracts are interesting facts

Bulimus Abyssinicus Rüpp Hab. Abyssinia also found by Capt Boys13 in the Hill fort of Mandoo North of the Nerbuddah. I am unable to state the elevations. Other distant spe〈ci〉es belonging to the same type occur in Abyssinia and in the Highlands of the Dekhan

Among species separated by a wide extent of Seas you are probably aware that Pupa Anconostoma Lowe is common to Madeira & the Canary Isles The lost shell which I reported as found by me on the summit of St Helena,14 and lately refound by E Layard, proves to be the same species

W. H. B. 5th December 55

CD annotations

3.2 Bacon] ‘Bacon’ added pencil
crossed pencil
5.1 Cyclophorus] ‘([reverse question mark].)’ added pencil
6.1 Pterocyclus bilabiatus] underl pencil
6.2 Sent by E. Layard] ‘([reverse question mark].)’ added pencil
8.1 Helix marcida] double scored pencil
9.1 H〈e〉lix fastigiata] double scored pencil
double scored pencil
double scored pencil
scored pencil
12.2 elevations] ‘elevation’ added pencil
scored pencil
14.1 B.] ‘enson’ added pencil
Top of first page: ‘Range of shells’pencil, circled pencil


Benson was a conchologist and entomologist who had long been a collector and describer of the land shells of India, Ceylon, and the East Indies. The station he refers to is the hill-station at Darjeeling that the British established in 1840. CD had written to him requesting information on alpine land shells common to Ceylon and India (see letter to E. L. Layard, 9 December 1855). CD later used Benson’s information on the lack of similarities between the land shells of the mountains of India and Ceylon in Natural selection, p. 555.
Thomas Bacon.
Ludwig Georg Karl Pfeiffer was the author of several monographs on land shells.
Hugh Cuming’s extensive collections of the land and marine shells of the Philippines and the East Indies were deposited in the British Museum.
Thomas Claverhill Jerdon.
Benson 1853 describes new species of land shells collected by Edgar Leopold Layard.
George Brettingham Sowerby.
François Louis de Laporte, Comte de Castelnau.
Louis François Auguste Souleyet.
Robert Templeton was a specialist on the Lepidoptera and other insects of Ceylon.
Frederic Peter Layard was Edgar Leopold Layard’s cousin.
E. L. Layard 1852–3.
W. J. E. Boyes.
Benson 1851, p. 263.


Observations on shells in India, listing some specimens with particular regard to their locality, elevation, and relationship to other known types.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Henry Benson
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160: 150
Physical description
AmemS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1790,” accessed on 27 June 2019,

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