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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Lawson Tait   10 September [1875]

Basset. Southampton

Sept. 10th

My dear Sir

I can give you very little information on your subject.1 Earwigs are said, I believe—in Kirby & Spence, to take charge of their young,2 & I am sure that I have read that even Star-fishes do the same for their eggs, as everyone must have read of Spiders—3 I rather think that I have referred to star-fishes in 2d. Edit. of Descent of Man.— Other fish, besides Stickle-backs, take charge of their young; of which I give fresh instances in 2d. Edit. of Descent.—4

Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


In his letter of 7 September [1875], Tait had asked about parental instinct in various organisms.
Kirby and Spence 1828, 1: 360–1. Earwigs are insects of the order Dermaptera.
On maternal affection in spiders, see Kirby and Spence 1828, 1: 361–3. CD mentioned parental affection in starfish and spiders in Descent 2d ed., p. 106. Starfish are marine invertebrates of the class Asteroidea.
See Descent 2d ed., pp. 106 and 344–6.


Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.


CD gives a few instances of various animals (starfish, earwigs, spiders) that take charge of their young.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Robert Lawson (Lawson) Tait
Sent from
SP 11 75
Source of text
Shrewsbury School, Taylor Library
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10154,” accessed on 9 May 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23