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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Japetus Steenstrup    8 April 1852


the 8th. April 1852.

My dear Sir

I have been so late in answering your letter, so wellcome to me, that I should not wonder, if you for a moment had supposed, that your question had been troublesome to me, though it is far from having been so.1 Only the wish to answer you in a tolerably satisfying way made me put it off so long. Permit me now in a few words to inform you of the trifling hindrances, that the collection of Spengler, to which the Cirripeds belongs, on account of Mr Becks,2 the conchologs, retirement, now is without a special inspector and unhappily in no order, partly because Dr Beck did not at all keep anything in good order, partly because some of the parts of the collection had been removed, in order to revise all the specimens originalia of Spengler and afterwards place them separatly:—

Immediately after the arrival of your wellcome letter, I begann to seek for the original Cirripeds, but several weeks elapsed, before I found them, and when found in general, I wass, strange enough just wanting two of the species, which your question concerned. At length, after having sought them for a long time, I was happy enough to recover them. I began now the comparison, which you desired, but from day to day I became more aware, that to such a purpose I wanted too much a special knowledge of these Balanes, and that I had not specimens enough to enable me to make a comparison, which might be satisfying to the present state of the science and to another Zoologist, who would make use of it and bild farther upon it. I therefore wrote to the trustees of the royal Museum— being myself one of them, and asked the permission to send you some of the originals, that you might yourself make the comparison. This being granted, I now return to you your box with an Avicula from Tranquebar with two Balani, one of which is the Lepas purpureus var. a Spengl, the other, marked with a + is the Lepas purpureus Spengl, and of this last named I have joined an other lose specimen—all in all three, which I beg you to return, when you have finished your inquires on them.—

On examining the two connected shell, you sent me, I first judged the smaller one to be the real Lepas purpureus, but the number of the dissepiments and the forms of the cells in each of the composing valves, have afterwards made me judge it as belonging to a quit different, though very proximate species. I have put fife specimens, taken from a ship retourning from the tropic America, in your box, because they were still more resembling to your small specimen, with which I considered them quit identical; but from the above named characters, I must still suppose them to be different from yours as well as from Spenglers.—

The larger one of your connected specimens I can neither regard as L. purpureus Spengl. nor as purp. variety, but as far as I have been able to judge, it is identical with one of the many varietys or species, which are laying in the collection of Spengler under the name of: Lepas tintinnabulam var.—

I am sorry there is no Lepas mitra in the collection, but the operculum is there, marked with Spengler’s handwhriting: “Deckel von Lepas mitra”. I therefore suppose, that the shell itself might be found in the collection of the zoophytes, and will in future make its appearance. For the moment, I hope, this want will be of less consequence to you; the shell, which you supposed to be the Lepas mitra of Spengler, resembles so much his Lepas cœrulescens, that I have no doubt of its being quite the same species. Still I beg you to remember, that Spengler has described all his specimens as owergrown with other Balani, and that they can only be seen from beneath.—

That I have not yet written to you and informed you of my having received the fossil Cirripeds, sent to your disposal, and your beautiful and most valuable work on the animals, has its reason in a false shame, which would not allow me to whrite a few lines, but a longer letter, there being so much in your book, which highly interested me.3 Please to take my best thanks for the book! Your too high app-reciation of the little I had done in this matter, shall be an inducement for me to do something more the next time. Your observation of the mode of generation, or on the small males, of Scalpellum and Ibla was highly interesting to me, and I am longing very much for your treatise of the living pedunculated Cirripeds.4 Perhaps then I will have some relating observations concerning other animals to communicate you. I cannot admit, that any whatever Hermaphroditisme exists in nature. In my books, concerning that theme, I have about all sought to show, that such a condition is not with scientific evidence proved for a single animal, and as long this has not been the case, it is quite unworthy to the sciences to admit its existence.5 Your observation will greatly help to open the eyes of the naturalist for the tru relations in this groupe of animals

For the last years I have been much engaged with the observations, I have made in company with Professor Forchhammer6 and Mr Worsaae,7 inspector antiquitatum danicarum, of the remarquable mounds of shells, which are found on our coasts, and which were formerly regarded as raised beaches, but which we now with certainty can prove to be leavings from the meals of the eldest inhabitants. Likewise as in the mound of shells, derivating from the wild Indian tribes savages in America, we found these intermixed with haches, knives and other instruments of flint and bone, fragments of pottery, and many bones of quadrupeds, birds and fishes, which had been eaten. The bones of the eaten quadrupeds, viz the stag, the roebuck and the boar, are split or cleaved in the most systematic and remarquable manner, in order to take out the marrow; they have in this way got the most striking likeness with the bones found in the caves in England, which are judged to be reduced in that split state by the hyænas. These resemblances between the bones, split and cleaved by intelligence and those, crushed by instinct, I pointed out at the meeting of the scandinavian naturalists held at Stockholm last Summer, and there I also stated the result, that might be got, if similar researches of the remaining Indian heapes in America or in New Holland, cet. might be undertaken. I have already examined more than 30 of these ancient monuments, derivating from the eldest inhabitants and more than 3000 years back. More than 4000 bones and fragments of bones of quadrupeds I have already examined, and more than 300 of birds, many thousand of fishes.— Trough these and other researches it is proved, that the border of Dennemarck to that time consisted of many small Islands, which now are connected with the more continental parts of the Land, and therefore we now find shellheaps at a distance of 4–6 english miles from the coast. Of animals, which now are disappeared from the country or totally extinct, we have found some of great interest, among these the beaver and the Ourox. Of the beaver (castor fibes L) the remains of 3 specimens are found in a heap in Iceland, and in a heap in Jutland were found remains of 3 specimens of the Uroxe (Bos urus Linn, Sundevall, Nilsson:). I have besides two other evidences of the contemporariness of this oxe with the first inhabitants of our contry.8 As soon as I shall find an opportunity, I shall send you the different papers, we have published on that subject.—9

8/4 1852 Til Ch. Darwin


CD had written to Steenstrup asking him to compare specimens of certain sessile and pedunculated cirripedes with those named by the Danish conchologist Lorenz Spengler. Spengler’s collection was in the Zoology Museum in Copenhagen, of which Steenstrup was director. See Correspondence vol. 5, letter to J. J. S. Steenstrup, 3 January [1852].
Steenstrup had lent CD specimens of fossil cirripedes from the Zoology Museum in Copenhagen for use in preparing Fossil Cirripedia (1851). CD returned the fossils to Steenstrup in April 1851 and sent him a presentation copy of the volume in September 1851. See Correspondence vol. 5, letters to J. J. S. Steenstrup, 3 April 1851 and 9 September [1851].
In his letter to Steenstrup of 3 January [1852] (Correspondence vol. 5), CD mentioned the ‘curious facts’ concerning the existence of complemental males in Ibla and Scalpellum given in Living Cirripedia (1851).
Steenstrup, who was influenced by Naturphilosophie, argued in Steenstrup 1846 that it was impossible that such antagonistic principles as maleness and femaleness could be united in one individual. For CD’s criticism of this ‘rather wild Memoir’, see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to Albany Hancock,10 January [1853].
Johan Georg Forchhammer, professor of chemistry and mineralogy in Copenhagen, had also assisted CD with his study of fossil cirripedes.
Jens Jacob Worsaae was prominent in the first excavations of the grave mounds and ‘kitchen middens’ of Denmark. In the company of Steenstrup, he demonstrated that shell-heaps on the Danish seashores were man-made some four thousand years ago.
Steenstrup 1851.
The Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL contains two papers by Steenstrup giving the results of this research (Steenstrup 1862 and 1872), both of which were inscribed by the author.


Steenstrup, Johannes Japetus Smith. 1846. Untersuchungen über das Vorkommen des Hermaphroditismus in der Natur. Ein naturhistorischer Versuch. Translated from the Danish by Dr C. F. Hornschuch. Greifswald.

Steenstrup, Johannes Japetus Smith. 1862. Et Blik paa Naturog Oldforskningens Forstudier til Besvarelsen af Sprgsmaalet om Menneskeslægteus tidligste Optræden i Europa. Copenhagen.


His difficulties in answering CD’s letter of 3 Jan [1852] [see 1469]. There is no Lepas mitra in the Lorenz Spengler collection. He undertakes to compare the specimens of Balanus sent by CD with those of Spengler.

He thanks CD for his book [Fossil Cirripedia (1851)].

His work with Professor Forchhammer and Mr Worsaae.

Letter details

Letter no.
Johannes Japetus Smith (Japetus) Steenstrup
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen
Physical description
Draft 4pp (translated from Danish draft)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1478A,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7 (Supplement)