Friday, February 12, 2010

Darwin Day

A year ago, I wrote my first blog article on Darwin Day [display].

This National Photographic photo must be dedicated grudgingly to the memory of our hero, because Darwin apparently thought that the fabulous marine iguana, symbol of the Galapagos Islands, was ugly. He also dared to straddle the back of a Galapagos tortoise.

That's not the first time we've heard of otherwise intelligent individuals behaving as silly sporting tourists. So, we should be prepared to pardon posthumously the young naturalist for his frivolous behavior. In any case, Galapagos is where the theory of evolution seems to have been conceived. I imagine these islands as a sacred place: our Jerusalem.

In Christian theology, certain great figures have been linked to animals.

The four Evangelists are associated with symbolic creatures: a lion for Mark, an ox for Luke, an eagle for John, etc. It's high time to update theology. I proclaim: Henceforth, our beloved Saint Charles D will be represented by an iguana, our living Saint Richard D by a tortoise.


  1. I think iguanas are kind of cute.

  2. Kristin: I agree. What beautiful creatures! If ever you had the email address of an iguana breeder who can dispatch such beasts to Choranche (Vercors, France), please let me know. But what would I feed them? Do iguanas eat normal dog food? Besides, would they like to romp around in the snow?

  3. To be strictly pedantic, we would call those giant terrstrial reptiles tortoises, the term turtle being reserved for the marine branch of that taxon. There is a nice reconstruction of Darwin sitting astride a giant tortoise in the current Darwin exhibiton in the Natutal History Museum of Vienna.

    The marine iguanas are especially fascinating as being poikilotherms they can forage in the cold sea water for a comparatively short time before having emerge to sun-bathe and warm up.

    Thanks for thr post.

  4. Our youngest had a pet iguana, Luigi.
    I befriended him. He recognized my voice and would look at me when I talked to him. He liked to explore the house and steal a bite or two of our Wiener dog's food occasionally, but preferred an assortment of vegetables over anything the dog had. He loved desktop computer, lounging on top of the monitor. We had to keep him off though, after he mistook it for the loo. Unfortunately, we had to leave him behind when we moved. He makes his home now with snakes and fish ias a teacher's pet.

  5. Maalie: These days, I run into so many bits and pieces about Darwin (including extracts from a recently-made movie) that I tend to forget where such-and-such an anecdote comes from. But I was indeed struck by that image in your blog of Darwin astride a tortoise. Concerning the turtle/tortoise terminology, it's worse (for me) than knowing whether to say Peking or Beijing.

    Merisi: I didn't actually imagine seriously for an instant that people could in fact keep an iguana as a pet. But I guess I should accept the idea that people have kept all imaginable creatures as pets. There's a fascinating story in the media about Florida being invaded by pythons that were once pets. Many years ago, I had a small flock of sheep at Gamone. When I was looking after my wife's dog for a few months (while Christine was changing houses), the dog chased my sheep out of their paddock and down the road. They sought refuge on the slopes of a nearby mountain belonging to my neighbor, and they could never be coaxed back to my place. From time to time, I learn from neighbors that ewes with lambs have been sighted there, but the sheep have become essentially feral. Their presence contradicts persistent rumors about wolves in our corner of the Vercors.

  6. In accordance with Maalie's comment, I've replaced the erroneous term "turtle" by "tortoise".

  7. I agree: Iguanas as pets should be outlawed and if only to save fathers from being manipulated by their small daughters into buying one. It was my fault, of course, since I was traveling, leaving poor daughter without her mummy. And I was lucky, my husband said, since what the little one had really wanted was a boa constrictor!

  8. Merisi: I can imagine the kind of pleading: "Look, Daddy, if you think that Mummy wouldn't like me to have a pet boa, maybe we don't need to tell her. I'll keep it in my bedroom, and feed it at night. Mummy won't even need to know it's in the apartment."