skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Osbert Salvin   1 November [1871]

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Nov. 1

My dear Mr Salvin

How good you have been. I have been very glad to see the 2 specimens, especially the Merganetta, for as far as fitness for sifting is concerned, it is a capital link between the Shoveller & common duck. I could hardly have desired a better; & so is in some slight degree the Aix.1 I soaked the heads for an hour or two, & now they are drying on my table.2 & tomorrow or day after I will send them to station. Thanks to you, I have worked out my case far better than I ever dreamed of doing

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. I will send the Box off to night by our Carrier. to London & by Deliverance Coy to you.— Carriage paid whole way.— I think this safer than Railway.—

November 1st.—


Salvin had sent skins of Aix sponsa (the wood duck) and Merganetta armata (the torrent duck); see letter from Osbert Salvin, 30 October 1871 and n. 2. The shoveller duck (Spatula clypeata) is now the northern shoveller (Anas clypeata; see letter to Osbert Salvin, 25 October [1871]). In Origin 6th ed., p. 184, CD wrote: ‘From the highly developed structure of the shoveller’s beak we may proceed (as I have learnt from information and specimens sent me by Mr. Salvin), without any great break, as far as fitness for sifting is concerned, through the beak of the Merganetta armata, and in some respects through that of the Aix sponsa, to the beak of the common duck’.
Salvin had recommended soaking the beaks in water in order to examine the mouth cavities (letter from Osbert Salvin, 30 October 1871).


Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.


He appreciates the two specimens [skins of Mergenetta and Aix sponsa], especially the Mergenetta, which as far as sifting is concerned, is a capital link between the shoveller and the common duck. Arrangements for their return.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Osbert Salvin
Sent from
NO 2 71
Source of text
Sybil Rampen (private collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8045A,” accessed on 16 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19