RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1894. [Note on a Toxodon skull]. In R. Owen ed. The life of Richard Owen. London: John Murray, vol. 1, pp. 119-120.
REVISION HISTORY: Scanned, transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 10.2008. RN1
Amongst the descriptions which Owen made of the fossil mammalia collected by Darwin in the voyage of the 'Beagle' may be mentioned that of the Toxodon skull. The toxodon was a gigantic extinct mammal, presenting great peculiarities and having points in common with various orders of Mammalia.
The following account of the toxodon in the autograph of Charles Darwin was found amongst Owen's papers, from which an extract is now given:—
'The head was found embedded in whitish earthy clay on the banks of a small stream which enters the Rio Negro, and is situated 120 miles to the N.W. of Monte Video. The head had been kept for a short time in a neighbouring farm-house as a curiosity, but when I arrived it was lying in the yard. I bought it for the value
of eighteen-pence. The people informed me that when first discovered, about two years previously, it was quite perfect, but that the boys had since knocked out the teeth and had put it on a post as a mark to throw stones at. They showed me the spot where it had been found after a sudden flood had washed down part of the bank. Several fragments of bone and of an armadillo-like case were lying at the bottom of the almost dry watercourse. Some of these I collected, but from the disturbed state of the country the box in which they were packed was delayed on the road, and was afterwards sent direct to England.
'For this reason the temporary marks by which I had distinguished these bones from another set, found at the distance of several leagues, were lost, and I am now unable to say which are the fragments.....This river (Rio Cancaraña) has been celebrated since the time of the Jesuit Falkner for the number of great bones and large fragments of the armadillo-like case found in its bed. The inhabitants told me that they had made gate-posts of some leg bones, and I myself saw two groups in situ of the remains of a mastodon projecting from a cliff. But they were in so decayed a state that I could only bring away small portions of a molar tooth.'1
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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
File last updated 2 July, 2012