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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Bernard Peirce Brent   [1860?]1

you that ducks when they sleep on the water take out their feet shake them and place them under their feathers.2

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I trust you will not take it amiss in me for thus freely expressing my views, and again thanking you for the entertain-

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CD annotations

1.1 on the water … shake them] double scored pencil
2.1 I trust … entertain- 2.2] crossed pencil
Top of page: ‘18’3 brown crayon


The date is based on the suggestion in the text that Brent may recently have read CD’s discussion of the possible relation of the behaviour of ducks to the dispersal of plants and animals in Origin, pp. 383–8. See n. 2, below.
Brent was a noted pigeon-fancier and breeder of domestic poultry. He had assisted CD in his investigations of pigeons and fowls since 1856 (see Correspondence vols. 6 and 7). Brent’s remarks suggest that he was commenting on CD’s view that young molluscs or floating plants could become attached to ducks’ feet while they were swimming and thus be transported elsewhere. CD had been actively investigating means of geographical dispersal since 1855 (see Correspondence vols. 5 and 6). The results of his study are summarised in Origin, pp. 383–410, where an experimental trial on young molluscs clinging to ducks’ feet is mentioned: ‘I suspended a duck’s feet, which might represent those of a bird sleeping in a natural pond, in an aquarium’ (Origin, p. 385). The experiments, carried out in 1857 and 1859, are recorded in CD’s Experimental book, pp. 22–3 (DAR 157a).
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the means of dispersal of plants and animals.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Habits of ducks when sleeping on water.

Letter details

Letter no.
Bernard Peirce Brent
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 205.2 (Letters)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2624,” accessed on 18 January 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8