To H. T. Stainton 21 February 1
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
My dear Mr. Stainton
Though you are so kind as to say that you will write again, I must thank you at once for your letter, which is of the highest value to me.—2 Your results are most curious, & show what caution is requisite. Do you think it possible that breeding very young caterpillars under confinement & therefore not under strictly natural conditions could influence the sex. I do not recollect how soon the sexual organs are differentiated in Larvæ. Perhaps Sir J. Lubbock may know.3 It has been stated (but I cannot say that I quite believe it) by Knight that heat will determine the sex in unisexual flowers.4
I have had a note from Mr. Trimen who advances the case of the Lasiocampa Quercus, a female of which taken at any time & brought out of doors will be surrounded by males: this looks very like an excess of males—5 I remember reading somewhere, I wish I knew where an extraordinary account of males finding females at great distances & coming down chimneys6 Have you noticed other such cases, viz of many males pursuing one female.— I think I have seen this with Butterflies. But then here comes another doubt— May not the same male serve more than one female? or does male die after copulation? Do you know anything on this head?
I think I will write to Dr. Wallace of Colchester, who perhaps wd excuse my writing to him.—7 I do not know to whom to apply in France, but the proportional numbers of male & female silk-moths has probably been observed there.8 The whole subject is very intricate, far more so than I anticipated, but I have often found that by patiently collecting facts, or supposed facts, in relation to various classes, a dim ray of light may be gained. I am getting the results of breeding race-horses—short-horns & greyhounds, tabulated on a large scale.—9
I hope I shall not utterly weary you.—
With cordial thanks | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin
Discusses factors possibly influencing the sex of caterpillars. Is gathering information on sex ratios in insects and would welcome any cases in which males seem to outnumber females.
- Letter no.
- Darwin, C. R.
- Stainton, H. T.
- Sent from
- Source of text
- Natural History Museum, London (General Lib. MSS/DAR: 21)
- Physical description
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5907,” accessed on 3 December 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-5907