Watch the video to find out how the Floreana mockingbird helped inspire Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and how, more than 170 years later, 2 of the specimens collected during the Beagle voyage are helping efforts to save this species from extinction.
Though Darwin knew nothing of DNA, the Floreana mockingbird specimens he and FitzRoy collected have, after 170 years of safe-keeping in collections, yielded genetic clues to suggest a path for conservation of this critically endangered and historically important species.
When Darwin visited the Galápagos archipelago in 1835 aboard HMS Beagle, he was struck by the slight differences between the mockingbirds he found on the different islands.
He wondered if the mockingbirds on each island might be modified descendants of a single, ancestral species that had migrated to the islands at some time in the past.
This clue led him to question the stability of all species and set him on the road towards the theory of evolution by natural selection and his most famous work On the Origin of Species.
A Floreana mockingbird, one of the world's rarest birds. © Zoological Museum of the University of Zurich
Today the Floreana mockingbird, Mimus trifasciatus, is one of the rarest birds in the world:
Find out what threatens the survival of this rare bird.
Discover how 2 Mimus trifasciatus specimens - 1 collected by Darwin himself - are helping current conservation efforts for the Floreana mockingbird.
Get reference material for Mimus trifasciatus.
The Floreana mockingbird is one of the rarest birds in the world and is considered at risk of extinction. © Zoological Museum of the University of Zurich
The Floreana mockingbird was classified as critically endangered on the 2009 IUCN Red List. © Zoological Museum of the University of Zurich
Different views of Charles Darwin's Floreana mockingbird specimen.
The foot of a Floreana mockingbird specimen in the Museum's collections. To support a project for the reintroduction of the mockingbird to the island of Floreana, the Museum's Bird Group provided small samples from the foot pads of 2 specimens collected by Darwin and Fitzroy (Captain of HMS Beagle).