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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Richard Owen   [4 February 1842]

[12 Upper Gower Street, London.]

My dear Owen

I thought you possibly would like to see what a haul, Muniz, a young Professor of Medicine has made almost in one spot amongst the fossils—if he is to be trusted Macrauchenia! our government ought to apply to B. Ayres for casts.—1 Your work is now telling there.— Please sometime return Paper.2

Ever yours | C. Darwin


Francisco Javier Muñiz had published details in 1841 of substantial fossil finds in Luján, Argentina; instead of his collection forming the foundation of a National Museum of Natural History in Argentina as Muñiz hoped, it was shipped to Paris after General Juan Manuel Rosas, governor of Buenos Aires, gave it to the French naval commander in the region in 1842 (Novoa and Levine 2010, pp. 31–2). Earlier collections of Argentinian fossils had also been sent to Europe (Podgorny 2013). Macrauchenia patachonica, an extinct llama-like animal the size of a camel, had been determined by Owen from a partial skeleton found by CD at Port St Julian, Patagonia, in 1834, and published in Fossil Mammalia, pp. 35–6 (see also R. D. Keynes 1988, p. 214 n.2).
CD presumably enclosed the issue of the British Packet (the newspaper of the British community in Buenos Aires) in which a letter from Muñiz describing his finds was published; in South America, p. 106, CD noted, ‘lately, within eight leagues of the town of Luxan, Dr. F. X. Muñiz has collected (British Packet, Buenos Ayres September 25th, 1841), from an average depth of eighteen feet, very numerous remains, of no less than, as he believes, nine distinct species of mammifers.’


Keynes, Richard Darwin, ed. 1988. Charles Darwin’s Beagle diary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Podgorny, Irina. 2013. Fossil dealers, the practices of comparative anatomy and British diplomacy in Latin America, 1820–1840. British Journal for the History of Science 46: 647–74.


Informs Owen of the fossil finds of F. J. Muñiz in south America.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Richard Owen
FY 4 | 1842
Source of text
Enns Entomology Museum, University of Missouri
Physical description
ALS 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 617G,” accessed on 9 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24 (Supplement)