Gigantic Land Tortoises


MY attention has been called to the recent discussions in NATURE (vol. xviii. p. 220 et seq.) in reference to the geographical distribution of the gigantic land-tortoises of Malta, the Galapagos, and other oceanic islands (see also the annual address of the president of the Geological Society). On my return to America in 1864 from a four-years' residence in the guano key of Sombrero, West Indies, I put a small collection of fossil reptilian remains, found on that key, in the hands of the late Prof. Jeffries Wyman, of Boston, who had kindly consented to examine them. His report on the subject, received in August, 1865, was added as an appendix to a paper of mine on the geology of the key, but the latter was partially injured by a fire in the study of the late Prof. Joseph Henry, of the Smithsonian Institution, and its publication consequently postponed. I have since found time to restore and publish only a portion of my own paper,1 but the report of Prof. Wyman has remained untouched among the charred MSS. of my observations on the guano-deposit of Sombrero. I inclose herewith a copy of Prof. Wyman's report, and also his subsequent autograph letter, in returning me the specimens. (In the former I have supplied, in italics, the probable words which are missing along the singed edges of some of the leaves.) I have thought these details worthy of statement in justice to this distinguished comparative anatomist—who recognised thirteen years ago the occurrence of this interesting fauna in a locality of the Atlantic, and one evidently unknown to the recent investigators—and in explanation of the long delay in the publication of his views. The specimens in question remain still in my possession, with the exception of one in the museum of this school.

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  1. 1

    "Ann. Lye. of Nat. Hist. of N.Y.," 1868, p. 251.

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JULIEN, A. Gigantic Land Tortoises. Nature 19, 30–31 (1878).

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