Nature Blog Network Future Earth: Eggciting discovery in Cambridge

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Eggciting discovery in Cambridge

A gift from the grave. Rising to public attention this Easter is a perfect present from Charles Darwin. The size and shape of a Frys cream egg, this little treasure's original owner was a south American Tinamou from Maldanado - a male Tinamou in fact, as it is the males of the Nothura that incubate the eggs. Tinamou are related
to cassowaries, emus, kiwis, rheas and ostriches.

This specimen has been lurking since the late 19th Century in the Zoology Museum at Cambridge University where zoology professor Alfred Newton had deposited it. Like a neglected but secure deposit in a Swiss bank, modern curators discovered the egg that was one of only a very few bought back from the Beagle's wanderings. Newton was sent the egg by Darwin, through the intermediary of his son Frank, and the professor's notebook records that "
The great man put it into too small a box, and hence its unhappy state."


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