small dark brown egg, with Darwin's name written on it, was found by a
retired volunteer at the university's zoology museum.
It bears a large crack, caused after the great naturalist put it in a box that was too small for it.
The egg is the only one known to exist from Darwin's Beagle collection.
The significance of the egg was only seen later
At one time it was thought there were a dozen or more.
It was spotted one day in February by volunteer Liz Wetton, who spends a day each week sorting eggs in the Museum's collection.
said: "It was an exhilarating experience. After working on the egg
collections for 10 years this was a tremendous thing to happen."
It was the collections manager, Mathew Lowe, who first realised the importance of the specimen.
are so many historical treasures in the collection, Liz did not realise
this was a new discovery," Mr Lowe told BBC News.
have rediscovered a Beagle specimen in the 200th year of Darwin's birth
is special enough, but to have evidence that Darwin himself broke it is
a wonderful twist."
Dr Mike Brooke, the museum's
curator of ornithology, traced the specimen's origin in the notebook of
Professor Alfred Newton, a friend of Darwin's and a professor of
zoology in the late 19th century.
Newton had written:
"One egg, received through Frank Darwin, having been sent to me by his
father who said he got it at Maldonado (Uruguay) and that it belonged
to the Common Tinamou of those parts.
"The great man put it into too small a box and hence its unhappy state."
himself mistook the bird for a partridge at first. And in his notebooks
from 1833, he wrote that the bird had a "high shrill chirp" and that
its flesh was "most delicately white" when cooked.
museum's director, Professor Michael Akam, said: "This find shows just
how valuable the work of our loyal volunteers is to the museum".
Gonville and Caius
Chapel, seen from
St John’s College
chapel. On the left, just in front of Kings College chapel, is the University