skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Dana   25 November [1852]

Down Farnborough Kent

Nov. 25th

My dear Sir

Many thanks for your letter with the kind expressions towards me, & for what information you could give on the Gorgoniæ: I hardly expected any, but thought the specimens worth sending for the mere chance.1 Thank you, also, for kindly wishing to oblige me & the British Museum about the cave animals,2 should opportunity offer.—

The Sooloo cirripede is the Acasta sporillus;3 it differs from other members of the genus, (& indeed of the family) in the carino or postero-lateral compartment tending to become rudimentary, not extending down to the basal cup; & secondly in the very peculiar reticulated condition of the inside of the walls of the shell. Acasta is a genus or sub-genus for convenience sake only, as it is hardly separable from Balanus.4 The animal’s body rarely offers amongst the Balanidæ generic characters: I do not think any person could possibly distinguish the mouth & cirri of Balanus & the several succeeding genera: these parts sometimes offer specific characters, but then the parts must be examined in great detail. I am much surprised that you found A. sporillus alive, for I cannot but think the shell must be normally embedded in some substance like all its close congeners.5

I have seen, & been very much pleased with, the notice of my volume, which you have inserted in the N. American Journal:6 it has, I can assure you, given me great satisfaction. You will I think participate in my pleasure, when I tell you that Prof. Owen quite believes my facts as to Males of Ibla &c.— If ever opportunity offers, I hope you will carefully examine the attachment of the Lerneidæ7 with the fused legs: I may venture to suggest the use of hot caustic potash, as this in the case of cirripedes does not act on the chitinous cement. With respect to the larvæ of cirripedes, it is quite certain that during the first stage they have two anterior pairs of organs within cases, distinct from the 3 pair of legs round or near the probosciformed mouth: whether the organs are really antennæ may, of course, be disputed.8

I congratulate you sincerely on the progress of your Herculean labours on the Crustacea:9 I have a neighbour, who is very anxious to see this work; he is the son (very young) of Sir J. Lubbock, the great astronomer & Banker, who has taken up the smaller Crustacea with great zeal, & will soon publish a paper on a sub-genus, of Portia.10

I used the term of maxillipods by a gross blunder; I have a most unfortunate weakness in allowing errors of this kind to pass even when I know the derivations:11 I perceived this blunder too late to put it in the errata: the term struck me as excellent in one of your letters. I shall read with interest your Geographical discussion in Mr Lubbock’s copy when he can purchase it.12

You ask whether I shall ever come to the U. States; I can assure you that no tour whatever could be half so interesting to me, but with my large family I do not suppose I shall ever leave home it would be a real pleasure to me to make your personal acquaintance.

Believe me, my dear Sir with thanks & every good wish— Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin


CD had apparently sent Dana specimens of gorgonians, a group of Actinozoa which form upright branching colonies with a horny supporting axis, to help CD establish the habitat of cirripedes attached to them (see letter to J. D. Dana, 15 February [1852], n. 9). Several species of Balanus lived attached to gorgonians (see Living Cirripedia (1854): 218–22). Dana had classified gorgonians in Dana 1848.
A reference to the blind cave animals found by Benjamin Silliman Jr (see letter to J. D. Dana, 8 May [1852]).
Dana had sent CD specimens of this cirripede (see letter to J. D. Dana, 15 February [1852]). For CD’s descriptions, see Living Cirripedia (1854): 319–21.
In Living Cirripedia (1854): 303, CD stated: Had not the genus Acasta been already founded and extensively admitted, certainly I should not have formed it; but considering the close similarity in habits, aspect, and structure, of the nine species of Acasta, and considering the already large size of the genus Balanus, I hope I may stand excused for admitting Acasta as a sub-genus.
CD was surprised that Dana had found unattached living specimens of Acasta sporillus (a synonym of Euacasta sporillus) since other species of Acasta were found attached to sponges or sponge-like hosts (see letter to J. D. Dana, 15 February [1852]). Dana included drawings of A. sporillus in the Atlas to Dana 1852–3, the only cirripede included in his monograph on the Crustacea (see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to J. D. Dana, 8 October 1849, n. 5).
A lengthy notice of Living Cirripedia (1851) was published in the American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 14 (1852): 125–7, which drew attention to CD’s discovery of the complemental males of Ibla and Scalpellum.
See letter to J. D. Dana, 8 May [1852], in which CD first pointed out to Dana the analogy between the method of attachment of the Lerneidae and the Cirripedia.
Dana had maintained in Dana 1846 that the peduncle developed from a pair of larval antennae. CD, however, believed that the peduncle developed from ‘the whole of the anterior part of the larva in front of the mouth’ (Living Cirripedia (1851): 26 n.), with the second pair of antennae serving as the conduit for the cementing substance. For CD and Dana’s earlier discussion of the larval antennae of cirripedes, see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to J. D. Dana, 29 December [1850].
Dana was preparing two quarto volumes on Crustacea (Dana 1852–3), supplemented by an atlas containing ninety-six plates published in 1855. This work was his third report for the United States Exploring Expedition, 1838–42.
John Lubbock, aged 18 in 1852, devoted much of his free time that year to ‘working at Crustacea’ (Hutchinson 1914, 1: 33). In 1853 he published three papers describing specimens of the family Calanidae (Lubbock 1853a, 1853b and 1853c). The first, Lubbock 1853a, described a new genus, Labidocera.
See Living Cirripedia (1851): 12, 27. CD means that he should have used the Latin root ‘ped’ for ‘foot’ instead of the Greek ‘pous’ (‘pod’) to combine with the Latin ‘maxilla’.
In the Darwin Library–CUL there is a copy of Dana’s On the classification and geographical distribution of Crustacea: from the Report on Crustacea of the United States Exploring Expedition (Dana 1853), a separate publication of the last section of Dana 1852–3. The cover carries the inscription: ‘Charles Darwin Esq— With the kind regards of James D. Dana’. It is annotated by CD. CD received this copy from Dana shortly after he had borrowed John Lubbock’s copy in September 1853 (letters to JD. Dana, 27 September [1853] and 10 October [1853]).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Dana, James Dwight. 1846. Notice of some genera of Coclopacea. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 1: 225–30.

Dana, James Dwight. 1848. Zoophytes. Vol. 8 of United States Exploring Expedition. During the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842. Under the command of Charles Wilkes, U.S.N. Philadelphia.

Dana, James Dwight. 1852a. Crustacea. 2 pts. Vol. 13 of United States Exploring Expedition. During the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842. Under the command of Charles Wilkes, U.S.N. Philadelphia: C. Sherman.

Dana, James Dwight. 1853b. On the classification and geographical distribution of Crustacea: from the report on Crustacea of the United States Exploring Expedition, under Captain Charles Wilkes, U.S.N., during the years 1838–1842. Philadelphia: C. Sherman.

Hutchinson, Horace Gordon. 1914. Life of Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury. 2 vols. London: Macmillan.

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.

Lubbock, John. 1853a. Description of a new genus of Calanidæ. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 2d ser. 11: 25–9.

Lubbock, John. 1853b. On two new species of Calanidæ, with observations on the spermatic tubes of Pontella, Diaptomus, &c. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 2d ser. 12: 115–24; 159–65.

Lubbock, John. 1853c. On two new subgenera of Calanidæ. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 2d ser. 11: 202–9.


Thanks JDD for information.

Discusses Acasta sporillus.

Comments on review of first volume of Living Cirripedia [Am. J. Sci. 2d ser. 14 (1852): 125–7].

Asks JDD to examine Lerneidae.

Will read with interest the geographical discussion of Crustacea when JDD’s volume [Crustacea (1852–5)] appears. John Lubbock will purchase a copy.

Discusses error in Living Cirripedia.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Dwight Dana
Sent from
Source of text
Yale University Library: Manuscripts and Archives (Dana Family Papers (MS 164) Series 1, Box 2, folder 43)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1492,” accessed on 24 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5