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Fossils sparked Charles Darwin’s imagination

A new book recounts how discovering extinct species influenced his theory of evolution

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8:00am, April 8, 2018
Glyptodon

UNEARTHED  Evidence from South American fossils of extinct creatures such as Glyptodon, a giant relative of armadillos, ultimately helped Charles Darwin develop his theory of evolution.

Darwin’s Fossils
Adrian Lister
Smithsonian Books, $19.95

Charles Darwin famously derived his theory of evolution from observations he made of species and their geographic distributions during his five-year voyage around the world on the H.M.S. Beagle. But in the introduction of On the Origin of Species, the naturalist also cites another influence: the thousands of fossils that he collected on that trip. Darwin’s Fossils is paleobiologist Adrian Lister’s account of that little-appreciated foundation of evolutionary theory.

While sailors on board the Beagle charted the coastal waters of South America (the actual purpose of the expedition), Darwin explored the shore and rambled inland on excursions that sometimes lasted weeks.

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