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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. M. Norman   2 August 1869

address excised

Dear S〈ir〉

It always gives me pleasure to aid as far as lies in my power any naturalist engaged in the investigation of any group of the British Marine Invertebrata.

Allman wrote to me a month ago making the same request as that 〈2 or 3 words excised〉 letter 〈2 words excised〉 〈mak〉ing and I promised to send what calcareous sponges I could spare to Prof Haeckel.1 That promise as yet remains unfulfilled though not forgotton. I have during the past month had every moment occupied in moving into a new house which I have just built, and which is hardly yet completed and when I tell you that I have been obliged to be constantly looking after every species of workman in the house—have been laying out the garden & grounds—being a bachelor have had to buy every article of furniture myself from blacking brushes to Piano—and besides this have had all my collection (some 90 cabinet drawers, about 4000 bottles of spirit specimens & innumerable boxes) to pack and transport—as well as usual Parish work, you will understand that it has not been possible for me as yet to fulfil the promise.2 I enclose a letter which I have written to Prof Haeckel, which you can please read and post.3 It will show you what help I can give and what not   Bowerbank4 is the only other person who could help him where I am unable to do so.

It may interest you to hear that I have received the Crustacea for examination which have been procured during the first part of the cruise of the ‘Porcupine’ off the West of Ireland.5 They are an extremely interesting lot of things. For reasons already given I have not yet uncorked a single bottle, but a hand lens through the glass enables me to observe a very large number of northern things in the bottle— The following are from the greatest depths—

Lat 51.22 N Long 12.26 W. 808 faths Temp 41.4

A young specimen of the fine crab Geryon tridens Kröyer6 (only previously procured from fishermen’s deep water lines on a limited part of the Norwegian coast) eyes well developed.

Lat 56.10 N Long 13.36. W. 1263 fath Temp 37.3

Rhoea spinosa Sars (? or an allied species)7

Nebalia—apparently a new species.

Lat 54.54 N. Long 10.59. W. 1366. fath

Phoxus— sp.8

Tanaidæ— sp

Isopod— a new sp

Diastylis— spe

Cytheria— sp9

Lat 56.24 N. Long 11.37. 1380 fath Temp. 37.2

Cumacea— sp

Tanaidæ— sp

New isopod— same as in last


Praniza-like form— too large to be the larval state of

Anceus, perhaps the larval form of Tanais10

Lat 55.11 N. Long 11.31. W. 1443 fath

Tanais— sp.

Cypridina (Norvegica?)11

Besides the things named these bottles contain some very fine Copepoda—species wholly unknown to me—being free swimming species they may be presumed to have been taken into the dredge as it was being drawn up, but the species are so different from those previously known to us as British that I am inclined to think that they are forms which do not come to the surface, but live in the greater depths, and if this be so—here we have a source of food for the abyss-inhabiting fishes.12

Believe me, dear Sir: | Yours faithfully | A. M. Norman

August 2. 1869.

I have posted to you a copy of the Shetland Dredging Report just received from the Printer.13


Burnmoor Rectory | Fence Houses | Co. Durham

Dear Sir.

I have received two letters—one from Prof. Allman the other from Mr Darwin—asking me if I could assist you in your studies of the calcareous Sponges, by supplying you with specimens of the British Species.14

It will afford me, I assure you, great pleasure to do this as far a lies in my power. Of the 12 British species, I can give you the following

Grantia compressa (several varieties)

Grantia ciliata15 (two forms)

Leucosolenia botryoides

Leucosolenia coriacea16

Leuconia nivea

      —         fistulosa17

Leucogypsia Gossei18

Of Leucosolenia contorta19 I have no specimen; and of the remaining four species I have only single examples. If however external examination will be of service to you I will gladly sent you these for that purpose, and they can be returned when you have finished with them. They are all so small that it would destroy them to attempt to make sections; and one is the type specimen of Leuconia pumila.20 On hearing from you whether you would wish to see these specimens and how you would wish the sponges forwarded the parcel shall be sent.

Believe me | Yours faithfully | (The Rev) A. M. Norman


See letter to A. M. Norman, 29 July [1869]. Norman refers to George James Allman and Ernst Haeckel.
Norman had been appointed rector of the newly created parish of Burnmoor in County Durham in 1866; the building of the new rectory began in 1868. He was a leading authority on, and collector of, North Atlantic marine invertebrates; his collection was ultimately acquired by the British Museum. (Mills 1980.)
James Scott Bowerbank.
HMS Porcupine made three deep-sea dredging expeditions off the coast of Ireland in 1869; the first of these took place from 18 May to 13 July (Mills 1980).
Geryon tridens is now G. trispinosus (family Geryonidae, deep-sea crabs).
Rhoea spinosa is now Apseudes spinosus (family Apseudidae).
The amphipod genus Phoxus is no longer recognised because the name Phoxus had already been assigned to a genus of Coleoptera, but Norman evidently refers to a species of the modern family Phoxocephalidae.
The bivalve mollusc genus Cytheria (an incorrect subsequent spelling of Cytherea Lamarck) is no longer recognised because the name Cytherea had already been assigned to a genus of Diptera, but Norman evidently refers to a species of the modern family Veneridae.
Norman refers to the genera Praniza and Anceus (now Gnathia) of the isopod family Gnathiidae and to the genus Tanais, formerly considered to be an isopod genus but now placed in the order Tanaidacea.
The ostracod Cypridina norvegica is now Vargula norvegica (family Cypridinidae).
The food source for deep-water fish was a matter of contemporary scientific debate, but Norman never published this suggestion; for more on this, see Mills 1980.
Norman refers to Norman 1868. Between 1861 and 1867 Norman collaborated with John Gwyn Jeffreys on a series of deep-sea dredging expeditions around the Shetland Islands, supported by the British Association for the Advancement of Science; the marine organisms recovered were described by Norman, Bowerbank, and George James Allman.
See above, n. 1.
Grantia ciliata is now Sycon ciliata.
Leucosolenia coriacea is now Clathrina coriacea.
Leuconia fistulosa is now Leucandra fistulosa.
Leucogypsia gossei is now Leucandra gossei.
Leucosolenia contorta is now Clathrina contorta.
Leuconia pumila is now Leucandra pumila.


Mills, Eric L. 1980. One ‘different kind of gentleman’: Alfred Merle Norman (1831–1918), invertebrate zoologist. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 68 (1980): 69–98.

Norman, Alfred Merle. 1868. Shetland final dredging report. Part 2. On the Crustacea, Tunicata, Polyzoa, Echinodermata, Actinozoa, Hydrozoa, and Porifera. Report of the thirty-eighth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; held at Norwich in August 1868, pp. 247–336, 341–2.


Apologises for and explains the delay in supplying Haeckel with sponge specimens.

Mentions some of the interesting crustacean specimens he has received from the Porcupine cruise off the West of Ireland.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Merle Norman
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 172: 73; Ernst-Haeckel-Haus (Bestand A-Abt. 1: 1–52/22)
Physical description
10pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6848,” accessed on 12 June 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17