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Darwin Correspondence Project

To C. S. Bate   29 November [1857]1

Down Bromley Kent

Nov. 29th

My dear Sir

Mr Lubbock2 told me yesterday of a fact, observed, I believe, by a friend of yours, which interests me particularly; & I shd. be extremely much obliged if you could get me a little more information on the subject, namely the act of cross impregnation in some Balanus.—3

The points on which I so much wish for more information, are.— Which was the species; if not known could I see a specimen of the kind. Was the probosciformed penis inserted into more than one individual? For about how long time was it inserted? Was it inserted deeply & at which end of valves? Especially did the recipient individual continue during the time exserting its cirri? Did it keep its opercular valves widely open for the reception of the organ? I am anxious to know whether the recipient was a willing agent or adulterer, or whether it was a case of rape by act.— If the recipient was in full vigour, I think it wd be impossible to insert anything without its consent. Were the specimens under water at time?4 Who was the observer that I might quote his authority.

I hope you will kindly forgive all this trouble, for I am really very anxious on this point— Perhaps the simplest plan wd. be to forward this note to your friend & back up my request.

I have been very glad to notice what famous progress you are making in your Researches.—5

Yours sincerely | C. Darwin


According to an earlier sale catalogue (Sotheby’s London, 12 July 1992), the cover of this letter is postmarked 30 November and 1 December 1857. Parts of this letter were published in the Supplement to Correspondence vol. 13, and a facsimile of the complete letter was published in the Bonhams catalogue.
John Lubbock.
Bate’s friend Richard Bishop provided answers to CD’s questions (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from Richard Bishop to C. S. Bate, 3 December 1857). In Living Cirripedia (1854), p. 102, CD had noted that in several specimens of the hermaphroditic barnacle Balanus balanoides the penis was truncated and imperforate, yet there were perfectly developed larvae, indicating that cross-fertilisation must have occurred. He had not, however, observed the act of impregnation.
Bishop, in his letter to Bate, noted that the recipient was ‘exerting its cirri, with more than usual energy, & gave evidence of the intruder being a welcome guest’ (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from Richard Bishop to C. S. Bate, 3 December 1857).
Bate had recently published on the Crustacea (see Royal Society catalogue of scientific papers); Bate’s research culminated in History of the British sessile-eyed Crustacea (Bate and Westwood 1863–8).


Asking for specific information about reproduction in barnacles.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Spence Bate
Sent from
Source of text
Bonhams (dealers) (22 October 2014)
Physical description
** 4pp cov

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2175F,” accessed on 27 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24 (Supplement)