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An early German tardiologist - Prof. Ferdinand Richters

A few years ago we had already dedicated an issue to Prof. Ferdinand Richters (1849-1914). One of his spectacular achievements was the first description of the first Batillipes species Batillipes mirus, a maritime tardigrade.
Richters detected this bizarre water bear species in the benthos of "Kieler Föhrde" (i.e. a bay of the Baltic Sea close to the German town called Kiel).

[ Batillipes tardigrade from the Kiel Bay ]

Hind boy of  Batillipes mirus with characteristic appendix.
Image width ca. 0.2 mm

A further result of Richters' research was the discovery of the bizarre minute tardigrade Calohypsibius ornatus. One should think that the term "minute tardigrade" might be some kind of linguistic overkill. But, in fact there are small species among the tardigrades thus being ultra-minaturized relatives of the "normal" miniaturized tardigrades. Calohypsibius ornatus has distinctive rows of thorns on its cuticula and therefore received its latin attribute "ornatus".

[ Calohypsibius ornatus ]

Due to its tiny size and transparency the minute terrestrial tardigrade Calohypsibsibius ornatus is a real microscopical challenge, even for the advanced amateur.
Female with mature egg. Body length 140 µm. Most legs are covered by the body and the last pair of legs is out of focus - a really difficult photomicrography object.

As the Water Bear web base has become an internet fossil itself we receive lots of mails from readers some of which are able to contribute substantially to our subject. So we are glad to have received a permission by Guther Dohse to present two of his family photographs depicting Prof. Richters.

It will become obvious from the pictures that Ferdinand Richters dedicated all his life to nature and zoology. For some time he has been head of the Crustaceae department of the Senckenberg collection and in his later years he become one of the most successful tardigrade "addicts" in tardiology history.

[ Ferdinand Richters as a young man ]

Ferdinand Richters as a young man.
Photograph by courtesy of the archive of Gunther Dohse.

When looking at the details we note essential objects of zoological study like the specimens in conserving fluid and further objects of interests and, last but not least, a reference book, probably for species determination.

[ Ferdinand Richters as a young man, detail ]

Same picture as above, detail, please note the loupe.
Photograph by courtesy of the archive of Gunther Dohse.

Many years had been passing by. In the meanwhile Ferdinand Richters had fallen ill but luckily recovered from his disease. Since his recovery Ferdinand Richters focused much of his research energy on tardigrades. Please note the crowded working area on his desks. Modern consultants probably would criticize him as chaotic personality - but apparently he simply loved the topics of his work and so there was no reason to "clean" his desks from any "ugly traces" (poor consultants!).

[ Ferdinand Richters, short before his death in 1914 ]

Prof. Ferdinand Richters in 1914, short befor his death.
Photograph by courtesy of the archive of Gunther Dohse.

The microscope on the right-hand side of the image, under the glass cover apparently his everyday microscope, probably also served as his tardigrade microscope.

[ Ferdinand Richters, short before his death in 1914, detail ]

Same picture as above, detail, once more with a loupe.
Photograph by courtesy of the archive of Gunther Dohse.

All the best for 2013!


A. Jassoy: Ferdinand Richters. Natur und Volk 46 (1916) pp. 168 - 175.

M. Mach: Schmucker Winzling - Das Bärtierchen Calohypsibius ornatus.
Mikrokosmos 98 (2009) pp. 9 - 15.

© Text, images and video clips by  Martin Mach  (webmaster@baertierchen.de).
Water Bear web base is a licensed and revised version of the German language monthly magazine  Bärtierchen-Journal . Style and grammar amendments by native speakers are warmly welcomed.

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