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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Fritz Müller1   12 September 1875

Itajahy, S. Catharina, Brazil,

12. September 1875.

Verehrter Herr!

Vor etwa 14 Tagen empfing ich Ihr bewunderungswürdiges Buch über Insecten fressende Pflanzen, welches ich mit ausserordentlichem Vergnügen und Interesse gelesen habe, da der Gegenstand mir ganz neu war.2 Wie ausserordentlich und wunderbar sind doch diese Insecten fressenden und verdauenden Pflanzen! Ich darf Ihnen meine herzlichste Dankbarkeit für Ihre unveränderliche Freundlichkeit ausdrücken. Ich bedaure, dass hier am Itajahy weder Drosera-, noch Utricularia-Arten zu finden sind; auf der Insel S. Catharina giebt es eine gelbe und eine blaue Utricularia und auch eine Art von Drosera.3

In einem früheren Briefe theilte ich Ihnen mit, dass eine von unseren Meliponen als Parasit in den Nestern anderer Arten lebte.4 Wirklich hatte ich in den Nestern zweier verschiedener Arten von Melipona einige Weibchen gefangen, die kleiner waren als die übrigen Bewohnerinnen und ganz abweichend gefärbt; auch hatten sie etwas längere Antennen, wie sie für parasitische Bienen characteristisch sind. Diese Weibchen waren kaum zu unterscheiden bei den beiden Arten, aber im Aeusseren sehr verschieden von den Bienen, mit welchen sie zusammen lebten. So wurde ich zu der irrigen Vermuthung geführt, dass sie Parasiten wären. Als nun mein Bruder diese vermeintlichen Parasiten der einen Art mit der Königin desselben Nestes verglich, so fand er sie mit dieser identisch, abgesehen natürlich von dem stark geschwollenen Hinterleib der Königin.5 Noch ehe ich diese Nachricht erhielt, war ich zu demselben Schluss gekommen, dass nemlich die vermeintlichen Parasiten junge Weibchen der Art sind, mit welcher sie zusammen leben. Ich kenne diese Weibchen bei 4 Arten von Melipona; diejenigen von 3 Arten sind kaum zu unterscheiden ohne genaue Untersuchung und diejenigen der 4. Art weichen nur durch erheblich geringere Grösse ab, während dagegen die Männchen und unfruchtbaren Weibchen (Arbeiter) der verschiedenen Arten grosse Verschiedenheiten in Farbe, Behaarung u.s.w. zeigen. Bei jeder Art gleichen sich die Männchen und unfruchtbaren Weibchen ausserordentlich, während sie von den fruchtbaren Weibchen sehr verschieden sind. Es ist eine sehr merkwürdige Thatsache, dass die beiden Sorten von Weibchen (fruchtbare und unfruchtbare) dermassen verschieden sind, dass die unfruchtbaren Weibchen mit den Männchen übereinstimmen, und die fruchtbaren vielmehr denjenigen von fremden Arten gleichen als den unfruchtbaren Weibchen und den Männchen ihrer eigenen Art. Die fruchtbaren Weibchen haben sich offenbar viel weniger von den gemeinsamen Vorfahren entfernt, als dies mit den Männchen und den unfruchtbaren geschehen ist, und dies mag auf den Umstand zurückzuführen sein, dass die fruchtbaren Weibchen wahrscheinlich nur einmal das Nest verlassen, um befruchtet zu werden, während sie die ganze übrige Lebenszeit im Dunkeln verbringen, wo denn Farben von geringer Bedeutung für sie sind …6

some text missing7 

larger than those of the worker and are themselves much larger, even before having been fertilised.—

I lately received from a friend of mine a Crustacean which surprised me extremely by its habitat; it lives in fresh water, in small rivulets of our Serra do Mar, whereas the whole family to which it belongs, lives in the sea, and its nearest relative, from which it is hardly to be distinguished, the Aeglea lævis is an inhabitant of the shores of Chile.8 

You have stated in your “Variation under domestication” that peloric flowers are peculiarly apt to make their appearance as terminal flowers of ears, which commonly have no terminal flowers.9  Now I lately had an opportunity of examining the flowers of a very stately species of Gunnera (the gigantic leaves not springing from the ground, but from the tip of an erect palm-like stem, about 4 Met. high), and in this the terminal flowers all were provided with petala, which were wanting in the lateral flowers. Here, as in the case of peloria, the terminal flowers apparently shows the primitive condition of the flowers, the petala having been lost by the most densely crowded lateral flowers. As I learn from Endlicher’s and from Hooker and Bentham’s Gen. plant.10 there are some apetalous species of Gunnera, while in others the petala are present.  It is interesting to see in our species both the forms of the flowers combined.

Gunnera (manicata?)11

[DIAG HERE]

I hope, Mr. Häckel will have sent you a paper of mine, lately published, on the young stages of Calotermes.12 

During the last year I have done hardly anything in the way of natural history and I doubt whether I shall ever be able, to return to my favourite occupations. To be forced to abandon natural history just now, when I had hoped to be able of dedicating to it my whole time, is of course rather painful to me; but whoever has to deal with Brasilian authorities, must be prepared to such disappointments.13 

Wishing that this letter may find you in good health, I am, dear Sir, with sincere gratitude and the most profound respect | Yours very faithfully | Fritz Müller.

CD annotations

3.1 larger … Chile. 4.5] crossed blue crayon
5.1 You] after opening square bracket blue crayon
6.1 I … respect 8.2] crossed blue crayon

Footnotes

For a translation of the first part of this letter, see Appendix I. According to Alfred Möller, all Fritz Müller’s letters to CD were written in English (see Möller ed. 1915–21, 2: 72 n.); most of them have not been found. Many of the letters were later sent by Francis Darwin to Möller, who translated them into German for his Fritz Müller: Werke, Briefe und Leben (Möller ed. 1915–21). Möller also found final drafts of some Müller letters among the Fritz Müller papers and included these in their original English form (ibid. 2: 72 n). Where the original English versions are missing, the published version, usually appearing in German translation, has been used. One sheet of this letter was forwarded to Joseph Dalton Hooker and is now in the archive of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; it has been transcribed from the original.
Müller’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Insectivorous plants (see Appendix IV).
Utricularia praelonga, which has yellow flowers, and U. reniformis, which has blue-violet flowers, are found in Santa Catarina, Brazil (see P. G. Taylor 1989 for details of their distribution). Drosera communis is a common species in Santa Catarina, but other species have been found there as well. Utricularia is the genus of bladderworts; Drosera is the genus of sundews.
Müller did find a parasitic species, but of the genus Trigona (T. limâo, now Lestrimelitta limao ). See Correspondence vol. 22, letters from Fritz Müller, [c. January 1874] and 20 April [1874]. Melipona, Trigona, and Lestrimelitta are genera of stingless bees.
In late 1872, Müller had sent several specimens of bees to his brother, Hermann Müller, who forwarded them to Frederick Smith for identification (letter from Fritz Müller to Hermann Müller, 15 December 1872, Möller ed. 1915–21, 2: 208–10). In January 1873, Fritz sent Hermann around forty bee specimens, including nine species that he described as belonging to the genera Melipona and Trigona (letter from Fritz Müller to Hermann Müller, 29 January 1873, Möller ed. 1915–21, 2: 214–18). For more on Fritz Müller’s work on stingless honey bees, see Möller ed. 1915–21, 2: 208ff., and West 2003, pp. 178–82.
Müller had planned to publish his observations on stingless bees, but only published a short work (F. Müller 1875; see letter from Fritz Müller, 20 April [1874] and n. 20). The text of a lecture he gave to a local cultural society on the comparative anatomy of stingless bees and details of cell construction in different species is reproduced in Möller ed. 1915–21, 2: 257–92.
The extent of the missing text is unknown, but is likely to consist of at least one manuscript sheet, since the surviving English section of the letter is a complete manuscript sheet.
Aeglea laevis is a synonym of Aegla laevis. Müller believed it was a saltwater species because Henri Milne-Edwards in Histoire naturelle des crustacés (Milne-Edwards 1834–40, 2: 260) described it as inhabiting the coasts of Chile (see F. Müller 1876a, p. 13). Aegla is an exclusively freshwater genus of anomuran crustacean, and a relative of squat lobsters. Müller named the new species Aeglea odebrechtii (now Aegla odebrechtii) after the friend who discovered it, Emil Odebrecht. Müller’s description of the new species, together with his discussion of its taxonomic place, was published in 1876 (F. Müller 1876a); CD’s copy of F. Müller 1876a is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. For a recent analysis of the taxonomic status of Aegla, see McLaughlin et al. 2010.
See Variation 2: 345.
Endlicher 1836–42; Bentham and Hooker 1862–83.
Gunnera manicata is giant rhubarb.
Ernst Haeckel had evidently sent CD the fourth part of Müller’s ‘Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Termiten’ (Contributions to the understanding of termites; F. Müller 1873–5); CD’s lightly annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Müller described the morphological changes in the larval stages of the termite species Calotermes rugosus (now Rugitermes rugosus). Müller had described some of their morphological characteristics in his letter of 16 January 1872 (Correspondence vol. 20).
Since July 1874, Müller had not been paid the small monthly stipend that had allowed him to continue to work in natural history, and his expected appointment to a government-sponsored post in the national museum as a travelling naturalist was stalled because of a ministerial crisis. For more on Müller’s difficulties with the provincial government at this time, see West 2003, pp. 185–90.

Bibliography

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Endlicher, Stephan Ladislaus. 1836–42. Genera plantarum secundum ordines naturales disposita. With 4 supplements; in 2 vols. Vienna: Friedrich Beck.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Milne-Edwards, Henri. 1834–40. Histoire naturelle des crustacés, comprenant l’anatomie, la physiologie et la classification de ces animaux. 4 vols. Paris: Librairie encyclopédique de Roret.

Müller, Fritz. 1873–5. Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Termiten. I. Die Geschlechtstheile der Soldaten von Calotermes. II. Die Wohnungen unserer Termiten. III. Die ‘Nymphen mit kurzen Flügelscheiden’ (Hagen), ‘nymphes de la deuxième forme’ (Lespès). Ein Sultan in seinem Harem. IV. Die Larven von Calotermes rugosus Hag. Jenaische Zeitschrift für Naturwissenschaft 7 (1871–3): 333–58, 451–63; 9 (1875): 241–64.

Müller, Fritz. 1875. Stachellose brasilianische Honigbienen; zur Einführung in zoologischen Gärten empfohlen. Der zoologische Garten 16: 41–55.

Taylor, Peter Geoffrey. 1989. The genus Utricularia — a taxonomic monograph. Kew Bulletin Additional Series XIV. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.

West, David A. 2003. Fritz Müller. A naturalist in Brazil. Blacksburg, Va.: Pocahontas Press.

Translation

From Fritz Müller1   12 September 1875

Itajahy, S. Catharina, Brazil,

12. September 1875.

Honoured Sir!

About 2 weeks ago I received your admirable book on insectivorous plants, which I read with exceptional enjoyment and interest, for the subject was entirely new to me.2 How exceptional and marvellous are these insect-eating and digesting plants! Let me thank you most cordially for your unchanging kindness. I regret that there are no species of Drosera or Utricularia here at Itajahy. On the island of S. Catharina there are a yellow and a blue Utricularia and also a type of Drosera.3

In an earlier letter I told you that one of our Meliponae lives as a parasite in the nests of another species.4 Actually I had caught in the nests of two different kinds of Melipona a few females that were smaller than the other females and quite differently coloured; also, they had somewhat longer antennae, which is characteristic for parasitic bees. These females hardly differed from one another, but they were very different in appearance from the bees they lived with. Thus I was led to the erroneous conclusion that they were parasites. Now when my brother compared these supposed parasites of the one type with the queen of the same nest, he found that they were the same as them, except of course for the greatly swollen abdomen of the queen.5 Even before I heard this news, I had come to the same conclusion, that is, that the supposed parasites are actually young females of the species with which they live. I know of such females in 4 species of Melipona; those of 3 of them can barely be distinguished from each other without detailed examination, and those of the 4th kind differ solely in that they are considerably smaller, while in contrast the males and the infertile females (workers) of the various kinds exhibit great differences in colour, hair, etc. In each species the male and infertile female resemble each other greatly, while differing strongly from the fertile female. It is a very curious fact that both kinds of female (fertile and infertile) differ so much that the infertile female is identical with the male, and the fertile female resembles that of a different species far more than it resembles the infertile female and the male of its own species. Fertile females have evidently diverged far less from the common ancestral form than males and infertile females, and this may be related to the fact that the fertile female probably leaves the nest but once, to be fertilized, and spends the entire remainder of her life in darkness, where colours are of little significance for her ....6

Footnotes

For a transcription of the first part of this letter in the German of its printed source, and for the rest of the letter (in English), see pp. 357–8. According to Alfred Möller, all Fritz Müller’s letters to CD were written in English (see Möller ed. 1915–21, 2: 72 n.); most of them have not been found. Many of the letters were later sent by Francis Darwin to Möller, who translated them into German for his Fritz Müller: Werke, Briefe und Leben (Möller ed. 1915–21). Möller also found drafts of some Müller letters among Fritz Müller’s papers and included these in their original English form (ibid., 2: 72 n.). Where the original English versions are missing, the published versions, usually appearing in German translation, have been used. One sheet of this letter was forwarded to Joseph Dalton Hooker and is now in the archive of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; it has been transcribed from the original.
Müller’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Insectivorous plants (see Appendix IV).
Utricularia praelonga, which has yellow flowers, and U. reniformis, which has blue-violet flowers, are found in Santa Catarina, Brazil (see P. G. Taylor 1989 for details of their distribution). Drosera communis is a common species in Santa Catarina, but other species have been found there as well. Utricularia is the genus of bladderworts; Drosera is the genus of sundews.
Müller did find a parasitic species, but of the genus Trigona (T. limâo, now Lestrimelitta limao ). See Correspondence vol. 22, letters from Fritz Müller, [c. January 1874] and 20 April [1874]. Melipona, Trigona, and Lestrimelitta are genera of stingless bees.
In late 1872, Müller had sent several specimens of bees to his brother, Hermann Müller, who forwarded them to Frederick Smith for identification (letter from Fritz Müller to Hermann Müller, 15 December 1872, Möller ed. 1915–21, 2: 208–10). In January 1873, Fritz sent Hermann around forty bee specimens, including nine species that he described as belonging to the genera Melipona and Trigona (letter from Fritz Müller to Hermann Müller, 29 January 1873, Möller ed. 1915–21, 2: 214–18). For more on Fritz Müller’s work on stingless honey bees, see Möller ed. 1915–21, 2: 208ff., and West 2003, pp. 178–82.
Müller had planned to publish his observations on stingless bees, but only published a short work (F. Müller 1875; see letter from Fritz Müller, 20 April [1874] and n. 20). The text of a lecture he gave to a local cultural society on the comparative anatomy of stingless bees and details of cell construction in different species is reproduced in Möller ed. 1915–21, 2: 257–92.

Bibliography

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Endlicher, Stephan Ladislaus. 1836–42. Genera plantarum secundum ordines naturales disposita. With 4 supplements; in 2 vols. Vienna: Friedrich Beck.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Milne-Edwards, Henri. 1834–40. Histoire naturelle des crustacés, comprenant l’anatomie, la physiologie et la classification de ces animaux. 4 vols. Paris: Librairie encyclopédique de Roret.

Müller, Fritz. 1873–5. Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Termiten. I. Die Geschlechtstheile der Soldaten von Calotermes. II. Die Wohnungen unserer Termiten. III. Die ‘Nymphen mit kurzen Flügelscheiden’ (Hagen), ‘nymphes de la deuxième forme’ (Lespès). Ein Sultan in seinem Harem. IV. Die Larven von Calotermes rugosus Hag. Jenaische Zeitschrift für Naturwissenschaft 7 (1871–3): 333–58, 451–63; 9 (1875): 241–64.

Müller, Fritz. 1875. Stachellose brasilianische Honigbienen; zur Einführung in zoologischen Gärten empfohlen. Der zoologische Garten 16: 41–55.

Taylor, Peter Geoffrey. 1989. The genus Utricularia — a taxonomic monograph. Kew Bulletin Additional Series XIV. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.

West, David A. 2003. Fritz Müller. A naturalist in Brazil. Blacksburg, Va.: Pocahontas Press.

Summary

Has read CD’s book on Drosera [Insectivorous plants] and found that it presents new material and is very interesting.

Has discovered that the parasites he thought he had found in Melipona nests are in fact true females. It is remarkable that they differ so greatly from the sterile females and males of their species.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-10155A
From
Johann Friedrich Theodor (Fritz) Müller
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Itajahy, Santa Catharina, Brazil
Source of text
Möller ed. 1915–21, 2: 318; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (PrP 08-0011)
Physical description
Inc; (German translation) & 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10155A,” accessed on 16 December 2019, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-10155A.xml

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

letter