British scientists have discovered a “treasure trove” of Charles Darwin fossils that have been lost for more than 150-years. The discovery was made in an old wooden cabinet in the British Geological Survey.
Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang, a paleontologist at Royal Holloway, made the discovery. Falcon Lang said:
“It took me a while just to convince myself that it was Darwin’s signature on the slide… Inside the drawer were hundreds of beautiful glass slides made by polishing fossil plants into thin translucent sheets.”
The Associated Press reports that Falcon-Lang recovered a collection of 314 slides of specimens. The specimens were collected by Darwin and contemporaries like John Hooker, a botanist and friend of Darwin, and the Rev. John Henslow, Darwin’s mentor at Cambridge.
Falcon-Lang said that the first Darwin fossil he picked up was from Darwin’s famous trip on the HMS Beagle in 1834. The BBC reports that it was on this trip when Darwin first started to develop his theory of evolution.
“To find a treasure trove of lost Darwin specimens from the Beagle voyage is just extraordinary. We can see there’s more to learn. There are a lot of very, very significant fossils in there that we didn’t know existed.”
Lang says that Darwin’s fossils may have been misplaced because in 1834 he was not a well-known scientist. Royal Holloway, of the University of London, said that Hooker indexed the specimens incorrectly as he was rushing out for an expedition to the Himalayas. The “unregistered” fossils moved from museum to museum until they landed at the British Geological Survey more than 100 years ago.
Dr. John Ludden, executive director of the Geological Survey, said:
“This is quite a remarkable discovery. It really makes one wonder what else might be hiding in our collections.”