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Darwin Correspondence Project

From James Orton   8 September 1869

Vassar College | Poughkeepsie, New York.

Sept. 8. 1869.

Charles Darwin Esq &c | Down, Bromley, Kent.

My dear Sir—

I take the liberty of sending you the first lower molar of a Horse, the skull of which (almost entire) I found fossil in a deep deposit in the Valley of Quito, 10000 ft. above the sea. The remains of the Horse, as I mentioned in a former letter, were accompanied by relics of a Mastodon, Deer, Llama, Auchenia &c.1 I am curious to know the species of the Horse; how it differs from other sp. of Horse found elsewhere in South America and lately by Prof Owen in the tertiary of Mexico.2 The entire specimen (and I believe this is the first equine skull found in South America) would be a better guide; but perhaps this tooth will show its affinities. If you have not the time to examine it, will you please send it to Prof. Owen.

I am with high respect | Your obedient Servant | James Orton.

PS. My book on “The Andes and the Amazon” will be out in November, when I shall have the honor of sending you a copy.3

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Name will [illeg] suffice’ pencil


Orton’s letter of 4 January 1869 described his scientific expedition to South America, where he had found mammalian fossils. Auchenia is a genus of the family Camelidae; it formerly included extant species like llamas and alpacas but is now restricted to one fossil species.
For Richard Owen’s paper on fossil horses, see Owen 1869. See also the letter from W. B. Dawkins, 17 July 1869.
Orton 1870 was dedicated to CD (see letter from James Orton, 4 January 1869, and letter to James Orton, 23 January [1869]). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Archive–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 644).


Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Orton, James. 1870. The Andes and the Amazon; or, across the continent of South America. New York: Harper.

Owen, Richard. 1869. On fossil remains of equines from Central and South America referable to Equus conversidens, Ow., Equus tau, Ow., and Equus arcidens, Ow. [Read 4 February 1869.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 159: 559–73.


Sends a lower molar of fossil horse from Quito. Curious as to its species, especially in view of Owen’s findings in Mexico.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Orton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Vassar College
Source of text
DAR 173: 38
Physical description
2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6882,” accessed on 12 June 2021,

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