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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Obadiah Westwood   23 November 1856

My dear Sir

The descriptions given by Tellkampf of the insects found by him in the Kentucky Cave are not sufficiently precise to enable us to determine the points in question with precision1

His adelops is however evidently identical generically with the European species of the same Genus ten of which have been already described as cave insects & several others not cave insects but found in damp dark places— We have one if not two of this Genus in England.— I do not know if the genus Adelops has been found elsewhere in America Neither can I tell whether the american Anophthalmus has been found out of the Caves or whether there is any other American Species of the same genus as I have not the last American Catalogue of Coleoptera at hand (Lacordaire only gives one American Anophthalmus. & no American Pristonychus.)2

I cannot do better than refer you to Dr Wallich’s Translation of Schiodtes remarkable paper published in the Trans. Ent.l Society New Ser. Vol. 1.—which I think from your letter you cannot have seen—3

As there have only been three or 4 American Cave insects descrid it follows that, as at present known, many of the European cave genera have no American representatives All we can say is that Adelops & Anophthalmus occur especially in caverns & in both America & Europe.

My impression is that old coprophagous or at least fossorial insects blunt the points of the spines or teeth of their fore tibiæ with working—but I do not think they break off their tarsi ordinarily. There is in fact generally a place of lodgement for the tarsus on the inside of the extremity of the tibiæ

Believe me | Yours very sincerely | Jno O Westwood

Hammersmith | 23 Novr. 1856


Lepdoderus Hohenwarti (Coleopt? new Fam.)5 —— angustatus —— sericeus Pristonychus6 elegans var. Schreibersi is this blind?7 Blothrus Schiödtii (scorpion)8 Titanethes albus (oniscus like) Polydesmus subteraneus Niphargus stygius (allied to Polydesmus)9 Anurophurus stillicidii (do?)10 Phalangopsis caricola. Grasshopper Cavicularia anophthalma (spider) Phalangium cancroides (do)11 Adelops12 Khavenhulleri13 (Coleopt.)14 Anophtalmus stomoides (Coleopt.) ——— Bilimeki15 ——— Scopolii16

F. J. Schmidt | “Laibacher Zeitung” | Nor 146. 4 Aug 1852.

CD annotations

2.3 not cave … places] double scored pencil
Top of first page: ‘Cave Insects’pencil; ‘19’17 brown crayon


Tellkampf 1844a and 1844b. CD had previously asked James Dwight Dana for information on the fauna of the Kentucky caves, as described in Agassiz 1851 and Silliman 1851. See letter to J. D. Dana, 14 July [1856], and letter from J. D. Dana, 8 September 1856.
Schiödte [1849] was translated and read as a paper by Nathaniel Wallich at a meeting of the Entomological Society of London on 6 January 1851 (Wallich 1851). The paper is cited in CD’s discussion of cave animals in Origin, p. 138.
The enclosure is in CD’s hand and comprises a list of cave insects taken from a paper by Ferdinand Joseph Schmidt, as indicated at the bottom of the list. It has not been possible to trace CD’s source. The list was evidently sent to Westwood at some earlier stage with a covering letter asking him to answer the questions and return it to CD. The list was annotated by Westwood (see nn. 5–16, below).
Westwood deleted ‘Coleopt? new Fam.’ and bracketing the three species wrote in pencil: ‘A genus of beetles forming a separate family quite distinct’.
Westwood wrote in ink below this name: ‘A British genus’.
In reply to CD’s query, Westwood wrote in pencil: ‘not quite’.
Westwood deleted ‘scorpion’ and wrote in ink: ‘Qy Blothrus spelæus Schiodte Cheliferidæ’.
Westwood deleted ‘(allied to Polydesmus)’ and added in pencil: ‘an Amphipod’.
Westwood deleted ‘(do?)’ and added in pencil, partially overwritten in ink: ‘Poduridæ’.
Westwood circled this entry and added in ink: ‘Qy Chelifer caneroides?— Qy Blothrus spelæus’.
Westwood here interlined ‘Tellkampf’ in pencil.
Under this name, Westwood wrote ‘=G. Bathyscia Schiodte—’ in pencil.
Westwood added in pencil: ‘10 Species now known’.
Westwood added in pencil: ‘Carabidæ’.
Following this list, Westwood wrote in pencil: ‘A considerable No. of new additional cave insects have since been published in the Stettin Zeitung & the Proceedings of the Zool–Bot Verein of Vienna.’ He refers to the journals Entomologische Zeitung … zu Stettin and Verhandlungen des Zoologisch-Botanischen Vereins in Wien.
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the geographical distribution of animals.


Lacordaire, Jean Théodore. 1854–75. Histoire naturelle des insectes. Genera des Coléoptères, ou exposé méthodique et critique de tous les genres proposés jusqu’ici dans cet ordre d’insectes. 11 vols. in 12. Paris: Librairie encyclopédique de Roret.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Schiödte, Jörgen C. [1849]. Bidrag til den underjordiske Fauna. Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskabs Skrifter. Naturvidenskabelig og Mathematisk n.s. 2 (1851): 1–39. [Vols. 6,8]

Silliman, Benjamin, Jr. 1851. On the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 11: 332–9.

Wallich, Nathaniel, trans. 1851. Specimen faunæ subterraneæ, being a contribution towards the subterranean fauna, by J. C. Schiödte. Translated from the Danish. [Read 6 January 1851.] Transactions of the Entomological Society of London n.s. 1 (1850–1): 134–57.


The Kentucky cave insects (Adelops) are evidently identical to European species of the same genus, some of which are cave insects, others found in damp, dark places.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Obadiah Westwood
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 205.3: 297
Physical description
ALS 4pp †, encl 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1998,” accessed on 21 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6