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Water bear reading: A giant work by Ernst Marcus

In the end of year 1927 Benedictine friar Gilbert Rahm proudly presented part 22 in the scientific series "Biologie der Tiere Deutschlands" (Biology of Animals in Germany) with the title "Tardigrada". He had compiled 56 densely filled pages offering a full review of the contemporary knowledge about water bears. All of us would have been proud of such an achievement. We should not forget that all this happened long before the inventions of word processing, desktop publishing and digital photography. But, as always in life, a master can be overdone by a higher master.

Already in the next year, in 1928 (see literature below) 230 pages of sophisticated tardigrade content by Ernst Marcus landed on Gilbert Rahm's desk. This book weighed one pound. Moreover, it was full of beautiful tardigrade drawings, most of which had been prepared by Ernst Marcus' wife Eveline. When seen side by side it becomes clear that Ernst Marcus' book is containing the fivefold quantity of tardigrade stuff. We think that this probably was a tough experience for Gilbert Rahm. One could have assumed that Ernst Marcus would take a break after multiplying the world's tardigrade knowledge. No, he didn't: in 1929 the next tardigrade book by Ernst Marcus appeared. Neatly bound, a true tardigrade bible, made up of 608 pages, in even better quality!

We have been starting our tardigrade reading issues with this splendid 1929 book as we have come to think that it actually is representing the greatest step ahead in tardigrade science over centuries. Besides, it is our favourite reading. Many books of the 1920s make nowadays people yawn but Ernst Marcus' scientific monograph doesn't. In this book the tardigrades seem to be magnified in a broader sense, becoming familiar to us like any other bigger animal, just think of a dog, a cat or a guinea pig.

[ Ernst Marcus, Tardigrada, 1929, title page ]   [ Ernst Marcus, Tardigrada, 1929, example page ]

The giant tardigrade book by Ernst Marcus, more than 600 pages! 


As an example we are showing page 165 illustrating the birth of Milnesium tardigradum babies.

So, simply accept our advice: in case you should come across this book in an antiquarian bookshop, do not ask for the price, just buy it! Funny enough our piece is bearing a stamp indicating that it was sorted out by a universitarian library in 2005! After 75 years of good care, in a close-to-new condition! If you are looking for further proofs of worldwide, ubiquituous madness - this is one.

If you shouldn't be that much lucky in finding, just try to get hold of the book in one of those bigger libraries - it is perfectly worth the effort - if you are able to understand German. If not, the illustrations alone are worth while.

We would like to mention a few other facts about this Ernst Marcus book:
the history of tardigrade science had not been taken too seriously until to its publication. But Ernst Marcus was able to fill 20 pages with a thrilling overview of tardigrade science alone. Overall, this book is representing one of those rare cases where the study of the original older literature appears to become superfluous (though such a statement should generally be taken with caution; many excellent ideas in science have become superseeded by subsequent weaker publications and were forgotten in the end).

After having studied the work by Ernst Marcus you will have gained a sharp visual sense for noticing all the beautiful graphic works by Ernst Marcus' wife Eveline many of which have been stolen by subsequent authors without any quotation, up to the present day.

After having read the text you will also notice that parts of Ernst Marcus' work have been misunderstood and misquoted. One of the most extreme examples is a later author who qualified Ernst Marcus' illustrations as somewhat primitive.

Ernst Marcus, being Jewish, lost his position at the Berlin university in 1936 and was forced to emigrate to Brasil, where he became a professor at the university of São Paulo. He died in São Paulo in 1968. A picture of his wife Eveline (1901-1990) is shown here here. The tardigrade Hypsibius Evelinae was dedicated to Eveline Marcus.

No matter what you are going to search, informations about the nervous system and the muscles, full page anatomy illustrations of single tardigrades, behaviouristic studies - the tardigrade bible by Ernst Marcus will be a good starting point.


Gilbert Rahm: Tardigrada. Part 22 in the series "Biologie der Tiere Deutschlands". 56 pages. Berlin 1927.

Ernst Marcus: Bärtierchen (Tardigrada). Part of the series: Dahl, F. (Editor): "Die Tierwelt Deutschlands". 230 pages. Leipzig 1928.

Ernst Marcus: Tardigrada. 608 pages. Leipzig 1929.

© 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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