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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Albert Charles Lewis Gotthilf Günther to S. P. Woodward   14 June 1861

Brit. Mus.

14. 6. 61.

My dear Sir

I have been so bothered with business of every kind that I could not answer your note before today.1

It appears that the “Wels” has been accidentally transferred by inundations into the Lake of Constance from the minor lakes north of it.2 This, certainly, happened more than once, but after some time the individuals which had not been introduced in sufficient number, died out. Thus you may find, that already old Gesner mentions the Wels as a fish of the Lake of Constance.3

Nothing positive is heard of the fish up to the time of Hartmann, Helvetische Ichthyologie 1827, who states that the fish is transferred to the Lake by inundation.4 After his time the fish appears to have died out again; for old fishermen stated to me at various parts of the eastern portion of the Lake, that they formerly never caught a Wels there, & that it was considered a great wonder when the first specimen was brought in to the town of Lindau. They asserted that this happened shortly after a “great water” & that this was the way of its introduction. From that time, however, the fishes multiplied, & they are not scarce now in the north-eastern part of the lake, whence I have procured young specimens.5 See “Rapp, die Fische des Bodensee’s. Stuttg. 1854.”6

Yours very truly | A Günther

(Mr Woodward)

CD annotations

1.1 I have … today. 1.2] crossed pencil
5.1 (Mr Woodward)] ‘To’ added above, pencil
Top of first page: ‘Keep’ pencil; ‘18’7 blue crayon, circled blue crayon
End of letter: ‘Dr. Gunther | On Fish repeatedly [interl] introduced by inundation. | I believe a Silurus?’ pencil


Woodward had written to Günther at CD’s request. See letter to S. P. Woodward, 5 June [1861]. The two naturalists worked in different departments of the British Museum.
The sheat-fish (Silurus glanis) is also known as the wels, a word taken directly from the German. The fish is common in the Danube and in other rivers of eastern Europe (OED).
Günther had made an expedition to Lake Constance during his student days at the University of Tübingen (Gunther 1975, p. 233). While at university, he published two studies of the freshwater fish of Germany (Günther 1853 and 1855).
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the means of dispersal of plants and animals.


Gesner, Konrad. 1558. De piscium & aquatilium animantium natura. Vol. 4 of Historiae animalium. 1551–8. Tiguri.

Hartmann, Georg Leonhard. 1827. Helvetische Ichthyologie, oder ausfùhrliche Naturgeschichte in der Schweiz sich vorfindenden Fische. ugrave;rich.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Rapp, Wilhelm Ludwig von. 1854. Die Fische des Bodensees, untersucht und beschreiben von W. v. Rapp. Stuttgart.


Discusses transport of fish to Lake Constance by flooding.

Letter details

Letter no.
Albrecht Carl Ludwig Gotthilf (Albert) Günther
Samuel Pickworth Woodward
Sent from
British Museum
Source of text
DAR 205.2: 235
Physical description
4pp †(by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3605,” accessed on 13 August 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9