Pranking Darwin

I’m a day late, but here’s an account of an April Fool’s Day prank that the crew of the HMS Beagle played on a young Charles Darwin:

April 1st

All hands employed in making April fools. — at midnight almost nearly all the watch below was called up in their shirts; carpenters for a leak: quarter masters that a mast was sprung. — midshipmen to reef top-sails; All turned in to their hammocks again, some growling some laughing. — The hook was much too easily baited for me not to be caught: Sullivan cried out, “Darwin, did you ever see a Grampus: Bear a hand then”. I accordingly rushed out in a transport of Enthusiasm, & was received by a roar of laughter from the whole watch. —

This and much more is available from the great resource, Darwin Online. Naturally I searched for monkeys. Here’s John Price on drills:

It certainly inspired no brotherly love for that particular monkey group the “Drills”, which are, I still think, the most repulsive brutes in creation.

Drill Mandrillus leucophaeus

Alexander von Humboldt on titi monkeys:

No other monkey has so much the physiognomy of a child as the titi; there are the same expression of innocence, the same playful smile, the same rapidity in the transition from joy to sorrow. It’s large eyes are instantly filled with tears, when it is seized with fear.

Red Titi Monkey (Callicebus cupreus)

And Alex again on the araguatos, or howler monkeys:

The Indians have a hatred or predilection for certain races of monkeys; they love the viuditas, the titis, and generally all the little sagoins; while the araguatoes, on account of their mournful aspect, and their uniform howlings, are at once detested and calumniated.

It seems a bit unjust to calumniate an animal that provides you a cure for asthma:

Our guides assured us gravely, that, “to cure an asthma, it is sufficient to drink out of the bony drum of the hyoidal bone of the araguato.” This animal, having so extraordinary a volume of voice, it’s larynx must necessarily impart to the water poured into it the virtue of curing the affections of the lungs. Such is the science of the vulgar, which sometimes resembles that of the ancients.

National Zoo Asks Facebook Fans to Name First Baby Howler Monkey

(Drill photo by Flickr user berniedup. Titi monkey photo by Flickr user The Tardigrade. Howler monkey photo by Mike Crosby, from the Flickr page of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Original April Fool’s link found by Friends of Darwin.)

Bill Nye on Creationism

If you’re a scientist or science-lover who grew up around the time I did, here’s one of your idols talking about creationism. There are a bunch of great quotes, but I especially loved these:

  • “If you try to ignore [deep time], your world view just becomes crazy, just untenable, itself inconsistent.”
  • “As my old professor, Carl Sagan, said, ‘When you’re in love you want to tell the world.’ So, once in a while I get people that really-—or that claim—-they don’t believe in evolution. And my response generally is ‘Well, why not?'”