Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang, a paleontologist at Royal Holloway, University of London, said Tuesday that he stumbled upon the glass slides containing the fossils in an old wooden cabinet that had been shoved in a “gloomy corner” of the massive, drafty British Geological Survey.
The first slide pulled out of the dusty corner at the British Geological Survey turned out to be one of the specimens collected by Darwin during his famous expedition on the HMS Beagle, which changed the young Cambridge graduate’s career and laid the foundation for his subsequent work on evolution.
Falcon-Lang said the unearthed fossils — lost for 165 years — show there is more to learn from a period of history scientists thought they knew well.
“To find a treasure trove of lost Darwin specimens from the Beagle voyage is just extraordinary,” Falcon-Lang added. “We can see there’s more to learn. There are a lot of very, very significant fossils in there that we didn’t know existed.”
The discovery was made in April, but it has taken “a long time” to figure out the provenance of the slides and photograph all of them, Falcon-Lang said. The slides have now been photographed and will be made available to the public through a new online museum exhibit opening Tuesday.
Falcon-Lang expects great scientific papers to emerge from the discovery.
“There are some real gems in this collection that are going to contribute to ongoing science.”
Dr. John Ludden, executive director of the Geological Survey, called the find a “remarkable” discovery.
“It really makes one wonder what else might be hiding in our collections,” he said.
Truly. It makes me wonder just what miracles would turn up if just one person was set to work with a feather duster. I bet their windows are just about crusted black too.
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