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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Albany Hancock   29 September [1849]

Down Farnborough Kent

Sept 29th

Dear Sir

I am truly obliged to you for your very kind letter & offer of specimens of Alcippe.—1 You cannot imagine how much I shall enjoy seeing in your Paper & in actual specimens a new form of cirripede;2 for I am wearied out with examining scores & scores of closely allied common cirripedes.—

I shd. have written about Lithotrya in former letter, but I had hardly space, & I did not know whether you wd like to have my views, on this point.—3 I conclude that the L. forms its own holes from having seen numerous specimens, (& 4 or 5 species) large & small, all exactly fitting their cavities. The calcareous cup is indisputably (I speak after careful examination with dissolution in acids &c &c) formed by the cirripede & is common to most (I believe all) the species of genus. You are perfectly right that the calc. cup is never moved. But the cirripede inhabits (as far as I have seen) only cellular rocks, or corals, or shells (such as the cirripede Conia, with large tubes) & the pupa crawls into some minute cavity & there fixes itself for ever, & then as it grows enlarges the hole to required size; this it effects by the edges of the valves & of the minute scales on the peduncle, being sharply serrated; & as of course the serrated edge would soon be blunted, the calcareous scales on the peduncle are moulted with the membrane on which they are fixed, & new sharp ones periodically formed.— This (ie moulting of calc. scales) is a unique case, & I have no doubt is in relation to their boring necessities.—4 I believe this is the way which my Arthrobalanus which inhabits the Concholepas, also makes its cavities & its outer tissue is studded with elegant minute trifid & 4-fid points; & the shell is apparently first perforated by other animals;5 but I have got to go over this again with Arthrobalanus, but I have had the misfortune to lose nearly my whole stock of specimens, of which I collected thousands, for 15 years ago in the Chonos archipelago I described its peculiarities in some detail.—6

I venture to predict that if you take the outer tissue of Alcippe & clear the corium from it & place it under the compound microscope, you will find the rasping minute points, & I believe you state that it inhabits shells abounding with cavities of Cliona &c &c.—

I am most particularly obliged to you for informing me of Lovens cirripede,7 of which I had not heard.— I shd. be most grateful for a transcript of the paper & drawing—or if the book be not above 2 lb. or two precious cd. it not be sent & I would gratefully repay postage, & thus save Mr Alder8 the trouble of transcribing, to whom pray give my sincere thanks. I have in my collection this Cirripede as I suspect; it is like an Otion, & from not having calc. valves might be called an Alepas, but strange as it wd. appear to any one, who had not studied the internal structure of these animals, it is not even one of the Pedunculata, but belongs to the sessile division, & forms a new genus between Tubicinella & Coronula.—9 I shd. have been very sorry to have overlooked Loven’s description.—

I presume you have a superabundance of materials, but if at any time you wd like to have my small collection of naked mollusca, made during my circumnavigation, they are at your service; but I fear specimens preserved for many years in spirits, must be almost useless.— I think there are some new genera amongst them.—10

Once again allow me to thank you cordially for the very kind manner in which you have taken my request & believe me, dear Sir | Your’s sincerely obliged | C. Darwin To | A. Hancock Esqe

I see in the Athenæum they have omitted to express how valuable I thought your discovery & how interesting your whole paper.—11 I am very curious to see what you say about the palpi, I cd not follow the reading aloud, of this part, but if I understood right, the palpi are wonderfully different from anything I have ever seen in the Cirripedia.— I think it possible that Alcippe & Arthrobalanus may turn out distinct orders— The metamorphosis is certainly different— my larva has no thoracic legs, whereas yours has. mine is binocular, yours uniocular &c &c. Yet the 3 pair of cirri, the great lab⁠⟨⁠rum⁠⟩⁠ & habits are certainly strong points ⁠⟨⁠o⁠⟩⁠f resemblance.—12 I ought to apologise for the length of this letter.—


See letter to Albany Hancock, [c. 21 September 1849]. In Living Cirripedia (1854): 527, CD thanked Hancock, ‘to whose very great kindness I am indebted for permission to dissect and examine his entire stock of this truly remarkable Cirripede.’
Alcippe lampas was the new species of burrowing cirripede described in A. Hancock 1849b.
In his lecture presented at the Birmingham meeting of the British Association in 1849, Hancock stated that Alcippe was the only cirripede known to burrow into a chamber of its own making. He mentioned that Lithotrya, the other genus believed to burrow, rather appeared to inhabit pre-existing cavities in calcareous bodies. CD disagreed with this opinion. In his comments on Hancock’s presentation, he stated: ‘had Mr. Hancock examined specimens, instead of drawings, of the Lithotria in rock, he would almost certainly have acknowledged its power of excavating cavities.—’ (Collected papers 1: 251).
In Living Cirripedia (1851): 344–8, CD discussed the secretion of the ‘cups’ in which the barnacle sat in its burrow, and how they were only indirectly related to the excavating activities of Lithotrya. Hancock appended a note to the discussion of Lithotrya in his paper on Alcippe (A. Hancock 1849b, p. 313 n.): Whilst this was passing through the press I have been assured by Mr. C. Darwin, and his opinion on this subject is of the greatest value, that the dorsal cup of Lithotrya is undoubtedly formed by the animal, and that it has the power of enlarging the cavities in which the larva takes up its abode. He remained, however, unconvinced (see especially letter to Albany Hancock, 25 December [1850]).
CD’s original description of Arthrobalanus is in DAR 31.2: 305–8. His drawings are in DAR 29.3: 72, and are reproduced in Correspondence vol. 3, facing p. 320.
Alepas squalicola, named and described by Sven Lovén in Lovén 1844. CD concluded that it formed a new genus and renamed it Anelasma squalicola. See Living Cirripedia (1851): 169–80.
Joshua Alder, with whom Hancock published Alder and Hancock 1845–55, a study of the nudibranchiate Mollusca.
CD refers to Xenobalanus, a genus of sessile cirripedes. In Living Cirripedia (1854): 439, CD related his dismay when, believing the group to be among pedunculated barnacles, he found that it did not accord well with the defining characteristics of this family. But upon dissection he discovered a rudimentary shell, ‘of which a mere fragment would equally well have declared the true position and relationship of the whole animal [among the sessile cirripedes].’ The general resemblance of Alepas (renamed Anelasma) and Xenobalanus prompted CD to consider whether the former genus did not also belong among the Balanidae, but he finally decided the two genera were only analogically similar (Living Cirripedia (1854): 445–6). See also letter to J. J. S. Steenstrup, 30 December [1849], n. 2.
CD had retained most of his specimens of marine invertebrates, although some apparently went to the Royal College of Surgeons (see letter to J. T. Quekett, 7 September [1848]). For CD’s collection of nudibranchs, see letter to Albany Hancock, [26 January – March 1850], n. 3.
See n. 3, above.
See letter to Albany Hancock, [c. 21 September 1849], n. 8.


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Living Cirripedia (1851): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Lepadidæ; or, pedunculated cirripedes. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1851.

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.

Lovén, Sven. 1844. Ny art af Cirripedia [Alepas squalicola]. Öfversigt af Kongelige VetenskapsAkademiens Foärhandlingar 1: 192–4.


Thanks AH for specimens of Alcippe.

Discusses capacity of Lithotrya to bore its own hole. Believes Arthrobalanus also makes cavities this way.

Asks to see paper on cirripedes by Sven Lovén.

Comments on paper by AH [see 1253].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Albany Hancock
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1256,” accessed on 22 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4