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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Dana   27 April 1857

New Haven—

Ap. 27. 1857.

My dear Sir:—

I had intended to have replied to your last letter by the last mail,1 and commenced my sheet. But a heavy cold in my head compelled me to lay it aside for the time. Your former letter also remains unanswered.2 I assure you I take pleasure in contributing in any way I can to your labors, and wish I could do more than is now possible. The world needs a much more thorough search before the principles that flow from the Geog. Distribution of Species will be satisfactorily known.—

On the point on which you enquire, I can only say we need facts.3 We know almost nothing of the species of the Antarctic. Fuegia is the most Southern point—& this is in latitude 50 to 56o as you know. The South Shetlands have furnished a gigantic Idotæa (called by Dr Eights Glyptonotus Antarcticus)4 —and the Arctic has analogous large species, possibly—I cannot say certainly,—the same subgenus. This exhausts our Antarctic Catalogue, excepting a few Oceanic Amphipods, and the Serolis an Antarctic type.

With regard to the Fuegian species, There are the genera Serolis & Halicarcinus (Brachyman) peculiar Southern types, unrepresented, as far as now known, at the north. Halicarcinus has a representative genus, (Hymenicus) at New Zealand (Bay of Ids. lat 3512 o) and another (Hymenosoma) at Cape of Good Hope; so that the subfamily (Hymenicinæ, as I call it) is cold temperate rather than Polar.

Another Characteristic Fuegian genus is Lithodes— But this has species in the cold waters of the North Pacific & North Atlantic, and one species extends as far South as Puget’s Sound on the Columbia river. Eurypodius occurs from Cape Horn to Valparaiso,—being a cold temperate genus; and although unknown to the North, there is the closely related genus Oregonia, found in Puget’s Sound.—

In the Northern Seas, the genera Hippolyte & Crangon abound in species, while we know thus far of but one Hippolyte from the colder Southern latitudes (Hip., ignobilis of Dr Kinahan, Jour. Roy. Dublin Soc. Oct. 1856),5 and no Crangon. More investigation will probably bring some to light; yet these will still stand, we may presume, as northern genera. Hippolyte however has tropical as well as cold water species. The Crustacea genera of the cold temperate waters have fewer species and are more numerous, especially among the Maioids, or triangular Crabs, and the Amphipods, than those of the tropics. The cold-water species of Crustacea are more apt to be spinous Species.— I do not know of any species of the cold temperate South, identical with those of the cold temperate north.

You have no doubt observed what I have written, on p. 1579 of my Report, on the Crustacea of the colder zones.6 It is my impression that the species of the regions South of Valparaiso (cold temperate) differ more in genera from those north of San Francisco, that those of the warm temperate South from those of the warm temp. north.7 But without more observations, it would be difficult to prove this by tables for comparison. The Galapagos afforded Dr Bell a great variety of Maioids,8 and they would counterbalance any diversity among the maioids of more extratropical regions. The Maioids, you remember are prominently a cold water group, and the cold southern waters that sweep over or around the Galapagos account for the abundance there of these Crustacea.

The paper of Dr Kinahan, to which I alluded, is not quite satisfactory in some respects. In making a comparison between Dublin Bay & Port Philip Australia, he is not careful to mention only representative genera or species. He says (p. 133) that Ozius serratifrons of Port Philip is replaced by Carcinus mænas & Pilumnus hirtellus of Dublin Bay. So, Cyclograpsus 8-dentatus is spoken of as representing a Portunus in Dublin Bay. It is true that in all cases, the species of a region are those that replace the species of another region: and a Catalogue of the two, exhibits the contrast. But these genera are not representatives in any proper sense. His other comparative statements on the same page are of this kind.

I have just learned that Prof. Agassiz & a naturalist of Boston have a collector now in the Pacific, who is to collect every thing at the Islands, commencing with the Sandwich Isds.9 I wish some person could spend a few months between valparaiso and the Antarctic in as diligent search, with dredges &c. It would bring much to light. The U.S. North Pacific expedition that returned home last year had an excellent Naturalist on board by the name of Wm. Stimpson, who is now at the Smithsonian Institution Washington City, studying and describing his specimens collected between the East Indies and Behrings Straits & along the American Coast down to San Francisco. He is an Invertebrate man in his pursuits and you will gather some idea of his Collections from the fact that he has 900 species of Crustacea Here is a very large addition to the Cold-water Fauna. He is now upon the Crustacea, but has not yet any results to bring out, as his genera species are not named.10

The Purbeck discovery is a grand one.11 If you take hold of geology by its deeper fundamental principles of progress, you find all such facts only illustrations of those principles. But if we look only to the more superficial conclusions such as those relating to the range of special groups,—which in fact Can hardly be called principles,—we find our notions often upset. I have just received a copy of Lyell’s Supplement, and believe I have to thank you for it.—12

If my letter does not satisfy you, and you think I can aid you farther, I shall expect other enquiries. I always value your letters, and shall ever remain | with warm esteem | Sincerely yours | James D. Dana C. Darwin, Esq.—


The ‘former’ letter to which Dana refers has not been located. Presumably it was a reply to the letter from J. D. Dana, 8 December 1856.
In his letter to J. D. Dana, 5 April [1857], CD had asked whether the Crustacea of the temperate northern seas bore a much stronger analogy to those of the temperate southern seas than those of the Antarctic did to the Arctic forms.
Dana 1853 discusses the geographical distribution of Crustacea. CD’s copy in the Darwin Library–CUL is heavily annotated.
In the last part of this sentence, the terms ‘South’ and ‘north’ were transposed, presumably by Dana.
It has not been possible to identify the collector.
William Stimpson, naturalist to the North Pacific exploring expedition, published a long description of new species of Crustacea he had collected (Boston Journal of Natural History 6 (1850–7): 444–532). The monograph he had been preparing since 1856 describing these and other specimens was destroyed, along with his and Dana’s type specimens and other valuable manuscripts, in the great Chicago fire of 1871 (DSB). In 1907, the Smithsonian Institute published what materials remained.
See letter to J. D. Dana, 5 April [1857], and letter from Charles Lyell [16 January 1857], n. 2.
C. Lyell 1857a.


Bell, Thomas. 1841. Some account of the Crustacea of the coasts of South America, with descriptions of new genera and species; founded principally on the collections obtained by Mr Cuming and Mr Miller. Transactions of the Zoological Society of London 2: 39–66.

DSB: Dictionary of scientific biography. Edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie and Frederic L. Holmes. 18 vols. including index and supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1970–90.

Eights, James. 1852. Description of a new animal belonging to the Crustacea, discovered in the Antarctic Seas, by the author. Transactions of the Albany Institute 2 (1833–52): 331–4.

Kinahan, John Robert. 1856. Remarks on the habits and distribution of marine Crustacea on the eastern shores of Port Philip, Victoria, Australia; with descriptions of undescribed species and genera. Journal of the Royal Dublin Society 1 (1856–7): 111–34.


In reply to CD’s query [see 2072], JDD describes what little is known about the crustacea of the Antarctic and southern lands.

Knows of no species of the cold temperate south identical with those of the cold temperate north.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Dwight Dana
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
New Haven
Source of text
DAR 162: 39
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2083,” accessed on 15 August 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6