The pedigree and influence of fossil collections from the Falkland Islands : from Charles Darwin to continental drift

Stone, Philip; Rushton, Adrian W.A.. 2012 The pedigree and influence of fossil collections from the Falkland Islands : from Charles Darwin to continental drift. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, 123 (3). 520-532.

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The Falkland Islands are typical of remote territories in that their early geological exploration was piecemeal and opportunistic. Whilst the resulting fossil collections (dominantly a Devonian fauna of the Malvinokaffric realm) remain the basis for modern interpretations, published accounts misrepresent their extent and provenance. Charles Darwin first discovered fossils during his 1833 visit aboard HMS Beagle, with subsequent British collections acquired in 1842 and 1876, respectively, by the Erebus and Terror and Challenger expeditions and in 1903 by the Scotia expedition. Darwin's collection, and much of the other material, is now held by The Natural History Museum, London (NHM) but some Darwin specimens were assimilated into other collections whilst at least one NHM ‘Darwin’ specimen was not collected by him. There may also be some uncertainty as to the origin of the Scotia collection, now held in Edinburgh by National Museums Scotland, in relation to a contemporary Swedish collection now held in Stockholm. The NHM holdings were supplemented by a number of enigmatic donations from private individuals and then by fossils collected during the first ‘official’ geological survey of the islands in 1920–1922. Meanwhile a large collection was built up in New York through collaboration in 1909 with a local collector – the Governor's wife! The regional associations of the fossils established the African heritage of Falklands geology, and thereby contributed to an understanding of continental drift as the mechanism for the fragmentation of the Gondwana supercontinent. The Falkland Islands are now regarded as a rotated microplate created during the break-up.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2010 > Marine Geoscience
ISSN: 0016-7878
Date made live: 15 Aug 2012 13:14 +0 (UTC)

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