Tinamou Egg

  • Tinamou Egg

Liz Wetton, a long-standing volunteer at the Museum of Zoology, was sorting through the extensive collection of birds' eggs in 2009 when she encountered this chocolate-brown specimen labelled 'C. Darwin' in faded ink. When her work was reviewed a few weeks later the significance of her discovery dawned: not only was the egg one of just 16 collected by Charles Darwin during his five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle in the 1830s but it was also the only one to have been found since.

The egg was laid by a spotted nothura, of the South American tinamou family, and donated to the museum by Alfred Newton, Professor of Zoology at Cambridge and a friend of Darwin's. His notebook contains the following reference to the egg, which also explains the crack in it: 'One egg, received through Frank Darwin, having been sent to me by his father who said he got it at Maldonado (Uruguay) and that it belonged to the Common Tinamou of those parts. The great man put it into too small a box and hence its unhappy state'.

Maker/source: Found c.1830 in Uruguay by Charles Darwin

Collection: Museum of Zoology

DISCOVERIES - Art, Science & Exploration
FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE MUSEUMS - 27 May - 27 July 2014