Fossils that Charles Darwin discovered have been rediscovered after being lost for 165 years. Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang, a paleontologist at Royal Holloway, University of London happen to stumble across a drawer in a cabinet labeled, “unregistered fossil plants.”
Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang said in a statement, “Inside the drawer were hundreds of beautiful glass slides made by polishing fossil plants into thin translucent sheets. This process allows them to be studied under the microscope. Almost the first slide I picked up was labelled ‘C. Darwin Esq'”
He went on to explain, “It took me a while just to convince myself that it was Darwin’s signature on the slide.” The paleontologist described the feeling of seeing that famous signature as “a heart in your mouth situation,” stating that he wondered, “Goodness, what have I discovered!”
Paleontologist Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang found a collection of 314 slides of specimens that were collected by Darwin and other members of Charles Darwin’s expedition where he developed the theory of evolution. People including; John Hooker and the Rev. John Henslow, Darwin’s mentor at Cambridge.
Joseph Hooker, a botanist and a close friend of Darwin, was responsible for assembling the collections while he briefly worked for the British Geological Survey in 1846. The fossils became lost because Hooker failed to number them in the formal specimen register before setting out on an expedition to the Himalayas.
Falcon-Lang explained, “To find a treasure trove of lost Darwin specimens from the Beagle voyage is just extraordinary. 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 Paleontologist found slides that contain bits of fossil wood and plants ground into thin sheets and affixed to glass slides in order to be studied under microscopes. Some of the slides are half a foot long.
Dr. Falcon-Lang speculated, “How these things got overlooked for so long is a bit of a mystery itself. Perhaps it was because Darwin was not widely known in 1846 so the collection might not have been given the proper curatorial care.” He added, “There are some real gems in this collection that are going to contribute to ongoing science.”