Charles Darwin’s Contributions to Entomology
Darwin Day is a global celebration of science and reason held on or around February 12, the birthday anniversary of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin.
In honor of Darwin Day, today’s post features the following video about Darwin’s contributions to entomology, which was presented by Dr. Gene Kritsky at Entomology 2012, the 60th Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America:
Although some may not think of Darwin as an entomologist, he in fact published numerous articles on insects, used entomological examples to support his theories of species origin and sexual selection, and made countless references to insects in his books.
Fifty years ago, the Annual Review of Entomology featured an article on Darwin’s contributions to entomology, in which the authors noted that The Origin of Species contains about 50 references to insects, including Darwin’s own observations on the similarity of British and Brazilian fresh water insects, the importance of insects as pollinators (a topic he later expounded on in his book, On the Various Contrivances by which British and Foreign Orchids are Fertilised by Insects), and the evolution of cellmaking in honey bees, among other topics.
The authors asserted that “Darwin’s direct contributions to entomology during his lifetime were outstanding,” adding that his theory of evolution “has had a profound impact on the direction of entomological research.”
Darwin drew on insects extensively for The Descent of Man and cited 85 entomologists whose work encompassed the globe. In Insectivorous Plants, he discussed the types of insects captured by the various plants. Darwin also advanced research in the discipline by reviewing favorably and encouraging the work of his entomological colleagues H.W. Bates, Alfred Russel Wallace, and John Lubbock.
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