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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Albert Günther   11 June 1873

British Museum

June 11. 1873

My dear Sir

I enclose the copy of a note of mine which I hastened to publish in the Annals, as soon as I had discovered the error into which I had fallen & led you.1 My comfort in the matter is that I may confidently hope that you will not find many other instances in which the communications I have made to you prove to be unreliable.

I was very sorry I could not manage to get away from the Museum to see you when you were in town.2 But there are weeks, & sometimes months, in which I have not a moment left between 9 & 4 o’cl. when I hurry off to my home.

Wallace brought me yesterday a living Phrynosoma from his brother in California, to observe the squirting of blood from the eye. The creature is weakly, & I doubt whether it will pick up sufficient energy of body & mind, to perform the trick in my presence, unless we get some warm sunny weather.3

With kind regards to Mrs Darwin, & with best wishes for your health | Yours ever truly | A Günther

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Bank 75£’ pencil


Günther had previously described a species of frog from India (Megalophrys montana, now Megophrys montana), the males of which possessed triangular projections on the upper eyelids and nose that were smaller or absent in the females (Günther 1864, p. 413). CD had included this species in Descent 2: 26 as an example of sexual differences in amphibians. Günther revised his earlier description on receiving new specimens from Borneo, in which females possessed the same projections. He concluded that the frogs lacking the projections were another species, Megalophrys nasuta (now Megophrys nasuta), and he noted the passage in Descent in which his original description had been reported by CD (Günther 1873, p. 419). CD removed this example in Decent 2d ed.
CD was in London from 15 March to 10 April 1873 (‘Journal’ (Appendix II)), and had invited Günther to lunch (letter to Albert Günther, 12 April [1873]). Günther was assistant keeper at the British Museum.
The genus Phrynosoma (horned lizards), is native to North America; six species are known to avoid predation by squirting blood from the corners of their eyes, but usually only in the presence of canine predators (see Sherbrooke and Middendorf 2004). Alfred Russel Wallace’s brother in California was John Wallace.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Günther, Albert Charles Lewis Gotthilf. 1864. The reptiles of British India. London: Ray Society.

Günther, Albert Charles Lewis Gotthilf. 1873. Contribution to our knowledge of Ceratophyrys and Megalophrys. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 11: 417–19.


Apologises for having given CD some unreliable information.

Letter details

Letter no.
Albrecht Carl Ludwig Gotthilf (Albert) Günther
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
British Museum
Source of text
DAR 165: 254
Physical description
2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8942,” accessed on 22 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21