22 October 2007

Darwin harbour is a biodiversity hotspot

Though Charles Darwin never got the chance to visit the harbour in Australia's Northern Territory that now bears his name, he almost certainly would have been delighted to learn that his namesake is now known to be a one of "the most diverse habitats not only in Australia but the Indo-Pacific region," according to Dr Kristin Metcalfe of Charles Darwin University.

Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Australia

Dr Metcalfe's discoveries include a whole new genus of coral which grows on mangrove leaves, which provides yet another connection to Charles Darwin. In Geology of the Voyage of the Beagle, he set out an elegant theory which provided a unified explanation for the formation of lagoon-islands, atolls and coral reefs.

Indeed Darwin seems to have had a penchant for coming up with grand unifying theories. In his autobiography he wrote, "my mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts."

According to Wikipedia, the first Brit to see Darwin harbour was Lieutenant John Lort Stokes on the third voyage of HMS Beagle in 1839* (Lort Stokes just so happens to be the forebear of our very own HMS Beagle Project co-founder David Lort-Phillips). The Beagle's then-captain, Commander John Clements Wickham, named the port after Charles Darwin who had sailed with both of them on the second expedition of the HMS Beagle, 1831-1836.

*Thanks to John Wilkins for correcting my century-spanning typo

1 comment:

John Wilkins said...

Umm, I think you mean 1839. Also note that T.H. Huxley in the Rattlesnake voyage probably saw it later.