Wallaces butterflies

Published: Monday 30 November -0001

DownToEarthCharles Darwin had been mulling over his observations of and theories about natural selection for years, but what prompted him to write On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was a letter from fellow naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. This 1858 letter, Darwin noted, was... coincidence...an exact abstract of what I wanted to write on evolution.

The American Museum of Natural History in New York has chosen a unique way to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the publication of the seminal text: it launched the first public viewing of substantial remaining collections of the man Darwin pipped to the post in propounding the theory of evolution. A cabinet with more than 1,600 well-preserved natural specimens collected, pinned, labelled and arranged, experts believe, by Wallace.

Like Darwin, Wallace spent years studying similarity and differences among species.As Darwin had his finches, Wallace tuned his theories on evolution based in part on butterflies, paying attention to changes in coloration, warning patterns and mimicry.

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