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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Robert Damon   12 October 1877

4, Pulteney Buildings, | Weymouth.

12 Oct 1877

Dear Sir

You may recollect my name as a correspondent many years since when you were engaged with the Cirripedes—1

A missionary from the S Seas has sent me a shell (Conus geographus) the animal of wh. he says is poisonous to such a degree as to have killed to his knowledge two persons &c2

Further, another missionary Rev W Gill in a volume “Life in the Southern Seas” repeats in substance the same testimony.3 Could you inform me if these testimonies has been corroborated by yourself or other scientific observers as I cannot but think it is an error— We know that many mollusks & other marine animals do under certain conditions poison when eaten, but in the case referred to mere contact always more or less poisons according to my informant

I should feel obliged if you cd. give me your opinion

I am Dear Sir | Yours truly | Robert Damon


No previous letters from Damon have been found, and his name does not appear in CD’s books on cirripedes.
The sea snail Conus geographus, found in Indo-Pacific regions, is venomous; it fires a harpoon-like tooth into its prey and releases a potentially fatal mixture of toxins (Bücherl et al. 1968–71, 3: 374–84).
William Wyatt Gill reported on a fatality from a shellfish sting in Life in the Southern Isles (Gill 1876, pp. 274–5). Gill mistakenly identified the sea snail as Conus textile not Conus geographus (Bücherl et al. 1968–71, 3: 375).


Gill, William Wyatt. 1876. Life in the Southern Isles; or, scenes and incidents in the South Pacific and New Guinea. London: Religious Tract Society.


Asks whether CD considers it possible that a mollusc could poison anyone on contact, as RD has heard from missionaries about a certain South Sea variety.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Damon
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 162: 36
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11182,” accessed on 23 May 2024,