Book of the Week: More with Darwin

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So, our last book of the week took a look at Darwin’s voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle through the eyes of a child. We thought it fitting this week to continue with the theme of the H.M.S Beagle, wrapping it together with one of the featured species on EOL this week, the Sphoeroides angusticeps, or the Narrow-Headed Puffer.

The Narrow-Headed Puffer is endemic to the Galapagos Islands, and indeed was first described in part 4 of The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle … during the years 1832-1836, page 154. Upon returning home, Darwin gave his collection of about 137 species of fish gathered during the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle to his friend, avid beetle collector Rev. Leonard Jenyns, for keeping. While Jenyns worked through this collection to describe it, he “had the most difficult time with the fish, as he knew next to nothing about their anatomy.”

Jenyns, transcribing Darwin’s own description of the specimen, described the Narrow-Headed Puffer fish as “above dull green, base of Pectorals and Dorsal black, a white patch beneath the Pectorals.” However, he noted that “The colors must have very much altered from the action of the spirit, as it now appears of a nearly uniform reddish brown, only paler beneath.” Interestingly, Jenyns originally misidentified the species, calling it Tetrodon aerostaticus. This was corrected to Tetrodon angusticeps, and is now known as Sphoeroides angusticeps.

Take a moment to check out the first descripton of the Narrow-Headed Puffer fish in this week’s book of the week, and be sure to take a look at this species on EOL to find more information.

This week’s book of the week, The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle … during the years 1832-1836, part 4 (1842), was contributed by the MBLWHOI library.

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Grace Costantino served as the Outreach and Communication Manager for the Biodiversity Heritage Library from 2014 to 2021. In this capacity, she developed and managed BHL's communication strategy, oversaw social media initiatives, and engaged with the public to excite audiences about the wealth of biodiversity heritage available in BHL. Prior to her role as Outreach and Communication Manager, Grace served as the Digital Collections Librarian for Smithsonian Libraries and as the Program Manager for BHL.