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Sneak peek at Darwin's crab haul
The crabs were collected during Darwin's voyage on the Beagle

A rarely-seen collection of crabs from Charles Darwin's voyage aboard HMS Beagle has been given a new lease of life on the web.

The University of Oxford has released images of specimens held in its museum collections that have been digitised for an online Darwin database.

The crustaceans changed hands several times after Darwin's return to Britain, before fading into obscurity.

They were then rescued by Oxford University's Museum of Natural History.

Charles Darwin developed an interest in natural history while studying divinity at the University of Cambridge and was subsequently accepted as the naturalist on an expedition aboard the Beagle.

From 1831 to 1836, Darwin travelled the world on the ship, making ecological and geological observations as well as collecting copious numbers of specimens.

Charles Darwin (AFP/HO/Getty)
Darwin collected copious numbers of specimens on his Beagle voyage
When Darwin returned to England, his collection of crustaceans did the rounds, eventually ending up in the hands of the zoologist Thomas Bell.

Bell immersed himself in helping Darwin classify his Galapagos turtles, and apparently lost interest in the crustaceans.

In 1862, they were rescued from obscurity by John Obadiah Westwood, Oxford's first Hope professor of zoology, who bought them for the Oxford University Museum of Natural History where they still reside to this day.

According to the Oxford Science Blog, Darwin wrote to Westwood in August 1861 to give his blessing to the relocation, although he later regretted splitting up the fruits of the Beagle voyage amongst so many different specialists.

The neglected crabs have now been electronically catalogued and can be viewed as part of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History's Darwin database.

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