It was fifty years ago today…

Fifty years ago today, Carl Hildebrand Lindroth’s revision of the Bembidion of Canada and Alaska was published; this was part 3 of his opus on the ground beetles of Canada and Alaska. This work is the basis of all that has been done in Bembidion systematics in North America since then. It is astounding to think how far Lindroth took a speciose group that, before he entered the scene, was a complex chaos of confusion, and how quickly he did so, for he was coming in to the fauna as a European, someone who had not worked long with North American Bembidion.


Not only is it a study that is beyond thorough (for he covers many species outside of the stated geographic range), it is also elegant in its simplicity.  I think one of the most amazing things about this revision is how he conveys, in a few sentences, the essence of each species.  There are no lengthy descriptions to sift through, just the diagnostic details and illustrations one needs.

For example, he describes Bembidion nudipenne as follows:

“102. Bembidion nudipenne n.sp. (type loc. Brandon, Manit., DAO!).
Smaller, slenderer, and darker than constricticolle. Dull; piceous to almost black, elytra with a usually well defined yellow subapical spot laterally, also shoulder and suture slightly paler; legs dark reddish, antennae piceous with indistinctly paler base. Head narrower than in constricticolle, prothorax (fig. 171b) with sides less rounded; both without setiferous punctures. Elytral striae with somewhat finer punctures, intervals only with a row of extremely small, non-setiferous punctulae (easily overlooked). Microsculpture strong and perfectly isodiametric over entire upper surface, except ± effaced on disc of prothorax. Wings constantly full. Penis, fig. 172. L. 3.5—4.0 mm.”

And, yes, that’s B. nudipenne in a nutshell.  I wish I had the ability to so succinctly communicate the means to recognize a beetle species.

The work is also art.  Lindroth’s drawings are beautiful, and extraordinarily informative. They were far ahead of most other illustrations from the 1960s of carabids.  Just as his text captured the essence of the beetles in a few words, his habitus drawings gave an accurate sense of the organisms through pencil and ink.


And his genitalic figures are so much better than others at the time, and most if not all that have been done since.


I don’t think I can fully convey how much I love Lindroth (1963).  I have five copies of it, and these are scattered around my life, which means I am never far from its pages.

Tonight I will raise a glass in honor of this remarkable achievement, 50 years later.

I might also note that my first contact with this work was when I received it from Carl Lindroth a few weeks after my 17th birthday.  George Ball had contacted Carl, asked him to send me the faunal work, and had paid for it – all shortly after I had first contacted George expressing my interest in carabid beetles, when I was 16.  Tonight I will raise a second glass in honor of George – thank you so much, George, for helping me fall in love with these little beetles.

This entry was posted in Revising Bembidiina, Scientific Illustrations, Taxonomic Process and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to It was fifty years ago today…

  1. TGIQ says:

    Lindroth doesn’t leave my side much these days as I work on my Arctic Carabid IDs – a wonderful tome.

    • Ah, it warms my heart to hear of a current graduate student enjoying the blessed blue books. BTW, any Bembs in the batch you are IDing?

      • TGIQ says:

        Sadly, my books aren’t blue: I’m using a tenuously-bound photocopied version 😦 I’d love to have an actual proper hardcover copy of my own one day! As for the Bembs, I don’t think I’ve encountered any so far if memory serves me correctly, but I have a ways to go still 🙂 I’ll keep you posted if any turn up 🙂

  2. Samuel Perry says:

    Copies of all six are still available from … I never have figured out what “check redemption” means, but around $200? Still, totally worth it. As far as I can tell, alongside Bousquet’s Catalogues, it’s the most important and useful documentation about Nearctic carabids.

  3. The Sproulpomere says:

    I can’t imagine how you must have felt to receive such a special birthday gift – thanks for sharing! Cheers!

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