skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. D. Crick   3 March 1882

111 Overstone Road | Northampton

March 3rd. 82

Dear Sir

Instead of being a trouble it is a pleasure to answer your enquiries, the shell was fixed to the leg of the bettle from the 18th. to the 25th., the beetle when caught was kept for about 3 hours in a handkerchief but after then was kept in water and it was when in the water that the bettle was caught for a few minutes by its antenne, the shell was alive when it dropped from the bettle and had its siphons extruded when the bettle dived down to the bottom of the vessel and thrusting its antenne between the valves which closing upon it, was held there for a few minutes.1

You are quite welcome to keep the specimens as long as you care to, and do with them whatever you think proper

The gentlemen who was with me on the occasion of capturing the beetle tells me he has often caught mussels when fishing in rapid streams but they have never been very large.

It may be interesting to know that an individual of the same species of shell and about the same size as the one forwarded to you has extruded two young ones which seem very active and able to take care of themselves; according to Dr. J G Jeffreys in British Conchology Vol 1 Introduction Page XXV and page 1, all bivalves are monœcious and able to fertilize themselves so that it is only necessary for one individual to be removed to a new locality for it to become stocked.2

Pardon me also for calling your attention to a remark in the same volume in the introduction page LXXX viz. “This diffusion of freshwater shells has been attributed to the chance transport of birds; but I am inclined to believe that it had a different and very remote origin, and that it took place long before the present distribution of land and water”.3

I remain | Yours very truly | Walter. D. Crick

Chas. Darwin Esq.

CD annotations

End of letter: ‘We may, therefore [interl] I think, reasonably demur to the The belief doubtfully [interl] expressed by Mr G. Jeffreys that the diffusion of fresh water shells “had a’4 pencil


See letter to W. D. Crick, 25 February 1882. CD had asked whether the beetle was kept in the air; it had earlier been identified as a female Dytiscus marginalis (great diving beetle; see letter from W. D. Crick, 18 February 1882 and n. 1).
John Gwyn Jeffreys had, in fact, noted that bivalves were ‘probably all strictly “monoecious”’ (Jeffreys 1862–9, 1: xxv).
See Jeffreys 1862–9, 1: lxxx.
CD’s annotation is a working out of the final sentence of his article as published in Nature, 6 April 1882, p. 530. In the published text the full quotation reads, ‘had a different and very remote origin, and that it took place before the present distribution of land and water.’ For the source of the quotation, see n. 3, above. CD omitted the word ‘long’, which is in Jeffreys’s original text.


Jeffreys, John Gwyn. 1862–9. British conchology, or an account of the mollusca which now inhabit the British Isles and the surrounding seas. 5 vols. London: John van Voorst.


Sends further details about the beetle and mussel sent to CD.

Letter details

Letter no.
Walter Drawbridge Crick
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 205.3: 265
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13715,” accessed on 25 September 2023,