A rare conjunction of taxonomy with gastronomy

The geneticist Steve Jones has written a typically entertaining, albeit belated, review of Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle in today's Wall Street Journal:

The joy of the journey was that it had a point. Bruce Chatwin and Paul Theroux have each written great travel books about South America—but why, in the end, did they bother? The smell of the agent, the contract and the advance hangs around their pages, but for Darwin (who was in no need of money) every paragraph exudes instead the heady scent of discovery.

Exactamundo, Prof. J! And, with his trademark mix of science and humour, Jones notes:

On the island of James he [Darwin] "lived entirely on tortoise meat… the young tortoises make excellent soup." In those lumbering creatures, Darwin saw, without realizing it at the time, his first hint of evolution, for animals from James were subtly distinct from those on Indefatigable and Albemarle nearby. In a rare conjunction of taxonomy with gastronomy, he noted that the James specimens were "rounder, blacker, and had a better taste when cooked"—which at the time seemed little more than a curiosity but was in fact his introduction to the biology of change.

The review is well worth reading in its entirety.

Richard Carter, FCD

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteNewsletterMastodonetc…

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