9 October 2011

Darwin's octopus

I learn via Michael Barton's The Dispersal of Darwin blog that 8th–12th October have been dubbed Cephalopod Awareness Days. What better excuse do I need to repost this 2009 post from one of my other blogs?

Charles Darwin to John Stevens Henslow (18-May-1832):

St Jago [modern-day Porto Praya in the Cape Verde Islands] is singularly barren & produces few plants or insects.—so that my hammer was my usual companion, & in its company most delightful hours I spent.—

On the coast I collected many marine animals chiefly gasteropodous (I think some new).— I examined pretty accurately a Caryophyllea & if my eyes were not bewitched former descriptions have not the slightest resemblance to the animal.— I took several specimens of an Octopus, which possessed a most marvellous power of changing its colours; equalling any chamaelion, & evidently accommodating the changes to the colour of the ground which it passed over.—yellowish green, dark brown & red were the prevailing colours: this fact appears to be new, as far as I can find out.

Darwin was hopelessly wrong about the colour-changing ability of octopuses being a new observation. But never mind: the good news is that one of Darwin's St Jago octopuses is still alive and kicking preserved for posterity in Cambridge, and I have photos to prove it:

Darwin's octopus
Darwin's octopus

Darwin's octopus
The accompanying label

8 October 2011

New website, new look, new contributor

Hello again, blogosphere! We have some announcements:
  • The HMS Beagle Project has a shiny new website, designed by M/A with invaluable input from Beagle Project associates Anna Faherty and Lisa Taylor.
  • This blog is in the process of being re-skinned to match the new branding. Pardon our mess while we get it all ship shape.
  • Please welcome our newest Beagle Project blogger Lisa Taylor. *clap clap clap* A lifelong traveler and fan of nature in all its oddity, Lisa has been to a handful of the countries HMS Beagle visited, and plans to explore more. Having worked as a journalist, video producer and project director on five continents, she linked two of them in 2009 by sailing the North Atlantic on a Canadian Navy vessel, and counts good sea-legs as a treasured genetic trait. She now lives in London, sharing her time between the HMS Beagle Project and sustainable housing advocacy.
    Lisa Taylor, Beagle Project Administrator and your newest Beagle Blogger.