Getting to know Toxodon and the Origins of Darwin’s Theory

Jakarta – On December 27, 1831, Charles Darwin sailing aboard the HMS Beagle. His original destination was South America. The dark journey became one of the important journeys in the origin of ideas Darwin’s theory. How’s the story?

Darwin’s theory of evolution is summarized in his book, On the Origin of Species in 1859. This theory argues that organisms evolve from generation to generation through the inheritance of physical or behavioral traits.

According to Darwin, the basis is the existence of variations in these traits or characteristics. These variations undergo changes in line with adaptation to their environment. Those who do not adapt are vulnerable to extinction. An example is like the shape of a bird’s beak finch which Darwin discovered in the Galapagos Islands. For information, finches are in the same genus as sparrows, as quoted from Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Darwin’s travels in South America before reaching the Galapagos Islands found many mammalian and non -mammal fossils. Some of them are sloth giant land, gomphother or the extinct North American elephant, and the bones of an extinct horse.

Specimen from America

Darwin discovered the fossils during his five-year voyage around the globe on the HMS Beagle, circa 1831-1836. The journey started from England to the coast of South America with captain Robert Fitzroy, as quoted from the Natural History Museum page, London.

Young Darwin at that time was employed as a naturalist or naturalist. Although most of his expeditions were done at sea, he also made excursions on land. There, he collected specimens while observing American plants and animals. His collections and records later helped Darwin develop ideas about geology, extinction, and evolution.

Toxodon skull

Darwin’s collection of mammal fossils from South America included about 100 bones and fragments. After investigation, the bones are estimated to be 10,000-500,000 years old.

One of the fossils that Darwin thought was the strangest was the skull Toxodon platensis, the extinct giant mammal of South America. The location of the discovery of the Toxodon skull is now located in Uruguay, near Argentina.

The Toxodon skull was the size of an elephant’s skull. Darwin bought the skull in the area around Uruguay for one shilling and 6 pence, around £7.50 today.

Darwin later discovered that the giant rodent-like teeth he discovered belonged to the same mammal. From there, he was very happy because he thought that the animal could be a fossil “rodent as big as a rhino”. According to him, this Taxodon fossil is one of the most valuable finds on his journey.

The Forerunner of the Theory of Evolution

The idea of ​​the theory of evolution stems from Darwin’s initial questions about his findings. In addition to the ‘rodent as big as a rhinoceros’, Darwin also found fossils resembling giant armadillos and sloth giant.

These findings led Darwin to ask whether there is a connection between long-extinct creatures and animals that are still alive today. Then, why do the surviving species live in habitats similar to extinct species.

Darwin also found the island full of flowers daisy and the sun that can grow as tall as a tree. In addition, in the Galapagos Islands, he found marine iguanas that are similar to the South American forest iguana, but appear to be highly adapted to the sea and swim to eat seaweed.

There, Darwin also encountered tropical penguins that resembled the Antarctic penguins, but were smaller and sometimes covered their feet with both wings to escape the sun.

From there, Darwin also questioned whether it was just a coincidence that the plants and animals found on islands were similar to those on mainland continents. He also questioned whether the animals were one species but different variations, different species, or in the process of variation to form different species.

The early ideas of the theory of evolution above were recorded by Charles Darwin in his personal journal. In 1837-1839, after returning from lessons, he researched his own findings. Just 20 years later, he published On the Origin of Species in 1859.

Modern research would later find that Toxodon platensis was not related to rodents. Toxodon was apparently part of a hoofed animal from South America called notoungulates or notoungulata. Notougulata animals have various shapes, from rabbit-like to rhinoceros-like.

Nevertheless, Darwin’s books and theory of evolution later had a great influence on Western society and thought. Fossils, personal records, and thought manuscripts Charles Darwin now stored in various museums.

The Taxodon fossil that was Darwin’s key received evolution theory can now be seen at the Natural History Museum, London. The digitized specimens of Darwin’s findings, including Taxodon, are now a tool for modern researchers to conduct more detailed studies.

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