Caught and Coloured: Zoology Illustrations from Colonial Victoria




Mr McCoy and Mr Darwin

The burrowing behaviour of frogs such as the Pobblebonk is perfectly in tune with the Australian environment, susceptible as it is to drought and deluge. In fact many species across arid Australia use similar strategies.

However it was all new and strange to Frederick McCoy, an Irishman familiar with more sodden and damp conditions. Searching though the literature of the day, he seized upon Charles Darwin's experiences to support the veracity of his observations.

A similar habit of covering itself by day in light soil, it will be remembered, Mr. Darwin observed in some of the South American Frogs; although my first statement of its being observable in Australia in this species has been contradicted by a writer in Sydney, who does not seem to have met the creature, which may be turned up with the spade, however, in any of the gardens of the locality [Brighton, south-east of Melbourne] I mentioned.

While McCoy readily enlisted Darwin's authority to reinforce his own conclusions, on the big issue of the day, the 'species question', the two men differed entirely. McCoy vehemently opposed Darwin's theory of evolution, preferring to believe that God successively created a unique set of animals for each of the world's great regions.


Spotted Marsh Frog, Limnodynastes tasmaniensis, by Arthur Bartholomew.
Spotted Marsh-Frog/Pobblebonk, Limnodynastes tasmaniensis/Limnodynastes dumerilli, by Arthur Bartholomew.