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Darwin Correspondence Project

From James Tenant1   31 March 1857

March 31st/1857

Dr Sir

I now send the result of the experiments of the Seeds2 which I have been trying ever since you was at the Gardens

I have succeded in getting Several of them to take them by letting them go a day or two without food the Minnows take the millet very and so does the Gold fish one minnow took 5 Seeds this day and the Tench and Common Carp and Barbel take the Wheat after it is Soaked well in Water for 12 Hours

As an Illustration of the fact that Barbel will take Wheat Dr Crisp—a Fellow of the Society who is a great Angler told me, that he has taken Barbel and dissected them And found a quantity of Wheat in them and he says he has caught them near the water mills where the wheat has been spilt into the river but never could get them to take it as a bait3 I should be most happy to make any Experiment you might suggest and

I remain your | obedient Servt | Jas Tenant C Darwin Esqe

CD annotations

Top of first page: ‘18’4


Tenant was keeper of the aquarium at the Zoological Society’s gardens.
CD was repeating experiments first carried out in 1855 (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to W. D. Fox, 7 May [1855]). Initially, he had hoped to find that seeds swallowed by fish could be transported and subsequently germinate. By 1857, he was investigating the possibility that birds might eat fish or other animals that had seeds in their guts (see letter to W. D. Fox, 20 October [1856]). CD also persuaded his nephew Edmund Langton to perform experiments similar to the ones described here. Langton wrote to CD’s son Francis on 21 February [1856] (DAR 205.2 (Letters)): Will you tell your papa that I have tried the experiments with all the seeds but the minnows only took a very little Dutch clover and spit it out again, and the Prussian carp took one anthoxanthum seed and spit it out again but it was a rather cold day so I will try again. The results of Langton’s experiments are recorded in CD’s Experimental book, p. 8 (DAR 157a).
See next letter.
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the means of geographical dispersal of plants and animals.


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


Sends account of his successful experiments in feeding wheat seeds to minnows.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Tenant
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 205.2: 257
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2069,” accessed on 19 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6