Darwin's Very Bad Day: 'Oops, We Just Ate It!' : Krulwich Wonders... When young Charles Darwin set out on the Beagle, near the top of his wish list was a rare and coveted bird: the lesser rhea. The bird had been sighted by a French rival — but never caught.

Darwin's Very Bad Day: 'Oops, We Just Ate It!'

Darwin's Very Bad Day: 'Oops, We Just Ate It!'

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This is a lesser rhea, a South American version of the ostrich.

Theo Allofs
Darwin&#039;s rhea standing on salt flat
Theo Allofs

These are rhea chops. The neck bones, leg bones, breast bones, feet, gizzards and feathers have been removed.

A chart showing rhea meat cuts.

This is Charles Darwin around the time he ate his first lesser rhea.

The young Charles Darwin.

This is what Charles Darwin said to his mates in the middle of that meal, around coastal Argentina, on Jan. 3, 1834:

Darwin jumped up and cried for everyone to stop eating the soup.

And if you would like to know why Darwin leapt up; ran round the campfire removing bones from every plate; dashed to the rubbish heap to gather every bone, foot, gizzard and feather that he could find; then packed them up and sent them from Argentina to a clever taxidermist in London, all you have to do is press the listen button at the top of the page.

Rhea: It's What's For Dinner

  • Check out this Argentine recipes for making rhea steaks.
  • Tips from the USDA on buying and preparing rhea meat.

Darwin's reconstituted and stuffed lesser rhea has disappeared, according to London's Natural History Museum. But maybe you know where his rhea is? Perhaps in your grandmother's attic? Happens all the time. If you have any idea, drop us a line below in the comments. We'll be checking.

This story comes from two Darwin biographers, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of Pilgrim on the Great Bird Continent: The Importance of Everything and Other Lessons from Darwin's Lost Notebooks (Little Brown), and Eric Simons, who wrote Darwin Slept Here: Discovery, Adventure, and Swimming Iguanas in Charles Darwin's South America (Overlook).