Charles Darwin's discovery of Devonian fossils in the Falkland Islands, 1833, and its controversial consequences

Stone, Philip; Rushton, Adrian W.A.. 2024 Charles Darwin's discovery of Devonian fossils in the Falkland Islands, 1833, and its controversial consequences. In: Clary, R.M.; Pyle, E.J.; Andrews, W.M., (eds.) Geology's significant sites and their contributions to geoheritage. Geological Society of London.

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
Text (Open Access Paper)
SP543-2022-190.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Download (1MB) | Preview


In March 1833 Charles Darwin discovered Devonian fossils in the Falkland Islands. He was excited by his find but could have had little premonition of the long-running geological controversy that he was initiating. Darwin's fossils matched a coeval South African fauna, and as further collections were made the association was apparently strengthened. A particularly important contribution arose around 1910 through collaborations between a local collector, Constance Allardyce, and professional palaeontologists: Ernest Schwarz in South Africa and John Clarke in the USA. The accumulating evidence was seized upon by the early proponents of ‘displacement theory’ - continental drift - notably Alexander Du Toit, who relocated the Falkland Islands northward for his 1927 South Atlantic reconstruction. A more radical, but geologically sounder proposal arose in 1952 when Ray Adie suggested that the Falkland Islands, rotated through 180°, had originated as the eastward culmination of the Cape Fold Belt and Karoo Basin. In effect, Adie had presciently described a rotated microplate, perhaps the first on record. An opposing view saw the Falkland Islands as part of a fixed, South American promontory, and argument around these two contrasting interpretations of South Atlantic geology continues to the present day.

Item Type: Publication - Book Section
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0305-8719
Date made live: 20 Jun 2023 13:50 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...