Celebrate Darwin’s Birthday (February 12) with this charming anecdote of the great naturalist’s growing interest in insects while a student in Cambridge, UK from 1829–1831. In a letter to his friend Leonard Jenyns, he wrote:
“I must tell you what happened to me on the banks of the Cam in my early entomological days; under a piece of bark I found two carabi (I forget which) & caught one in each hand, when lo & behold I saw a sacred Panagæus crux major; I could not bear to give up either of my carabi, & to lose Panagæus was out of the question, so that in despair I gently seized one of the carabi between my teeth, when to my unspeakable disgust & pain the little inconsiderate beast squirted his acid down my throat & I lost both carabi & Panagæus!”
The image shows two beetles of the same family as the one Darwin had caught. The specimen on the right is a Panagaeus crux major, a rare species of beetle.
Several images of the beetles were collected at different focal planes and all of the in-focus images were merged using a computer. The beetles are around 12 mm long.
Nicolas Gompel, PhD, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany