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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. H. Flower   3 May 1877

Royal College of Surgeons of England, | Lincoln’s Inn Fields, | (W.C.)

3rd. day of May 1877

My dear Mr. Darwin

Thank you for sending the pig’s foot (a left fore foot)1   It will make a valuable addition to our series of similar specimens, as it differs somewhat from any we possess. The four usual digits are quite normal, and on the inner side is situated another, quite complete, and with a complete and distinct carpal bone (trapezium) not usually present. Unfortunately the foot was cut off between the first and the second rows of carpal bones, so that we can not tell what the condition of the former was.

The additional digit differs however from the one which it seems to represent in ordinary 5 toed mammals in being larger, instead of smaller than the one next to it (or the second of the normal series) and of course it would be quite open to anyone to say that it really represented the normal inner or second toe of the pig, and that a supernumerary had been interposed between it and the third. It looks however, as if the former supposition was the correct one, though on the reversionary hypothesis it would have been more satisfactory, if it had been a rudimentary rather than an over well developed digit.2 The interest of the case will be much increased if it can be ascertained whether—

(1). the other fore-foot was similarly malformed—

(2) whether the hind feet were affected— & (3) whether it was a family or only an individual peculiarity.

At all events I am very glad of the specimen, for we can not have too large a series

Believe me | Yours very truly | W. H. Flower


See postcard to W. H. Flower, 2 May [1877].
CD had previously corresponded with Flower about a rudimentary sixth toe in frogs (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to W. H. Flower, 11 July [1863]). CD discussed polydactylism and inheritance in Variation 2: 12–17, including rudimentary extra digits in dogs, horses, goats, sheep, and pigs. The other forefoot had not been sent to CD, but was to be photographed (see letter from Otto Zacharias, 21 April 1877).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Discusses abnormal pig’s foot sent to him by CD.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Henry Flower
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Royal College of Surgeons
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.511)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10950,” accessed on 23 September 2021,