“Situation Anophthalmus hitleri, a project by Jasmina Cibic”

I was invited by a London based artist to be a part of a project for the European Capital of Culture in Maribor, Slovenia. The project is based on the story of the discovery of an endemic beetle living in the northern part of Slovenia, which is in danger of becoming extinct. 

The story as it was provided to me:

In 1933 Vladimir Kodrič happened upon a beetle in one of Slovenia’s caves around Celje, which he thought might represent a new species. In 1937 the entomologist Oscar Scheibel confirmed this. As a Hitler sympathiser, Scheibel named the insect Anophthalmus hitleri.  A name of an organism can only be changed in extreme circumstances that have to do with the development of knowledge. Politically sensitive names cannot be amended, therefore all attempts to rename the beetle have been unsuccessful. Because of the politically embarrassing name this beetle has been throughout its known existence held semi-secretive and even when it was featured on a Yugoslavian stamp in 1984, its Latin name was withheld. More recently, neo-Nazis in Slovenia have destroyed a part of its habitat, whilst collecting the specimens, after an article about its existence was published by the National Geographic in 2006.”

The process:

I was given instructions to create a black and white illustration of Anophthalmus hitleri on A4 sized paper as viewed from above with a white background. I was also told not to learn anything additional about the beetle itself or look at any pictures of the beetle. 

My background in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology was the leading contributor to how I determined what Anophthalmus hitleri would look like. As a generalist Scientific Illustrator, I do research before illustrating because I usually don’t know much about the subject. I was unable to look up the actual species for this project. Instead, I took into consideration what a cave dwelling beetle would have evolved to look like due to its environment. I researched general cave beetles and thought about what the caves I have visited were like. I imagined that hitleri would have long antennae and setae to find its way in the dark, be slender to get into tight places, and have little to no patterning since nothing would be hunting it by sight. Since hitleri would not need to see in the dark, I imagined it to have evolved to be blind. I digitally collaged and warped a variety of images of beetles in the Carabidae Family (the Family that hitleri is in) and used it as reference for my interpretation.

I do not personally know of any animal that was named after a person because of what it looks like. Therefore, the specific name (hitleri) was not considered in my interpretation.


Final Illustration: Black prisma color on coquille paper


In process photos:

hitleri Beetle
hitleri Beetle


hitleri Beetle
hitleri Beetle

hitleri Beetle

hitleri Beetle

hitleri Beetle

hitleri Beetle

hitleri Beetle

This project includes work from Scientific Illustrators from around the world and I was happy to contribute to it.

Please learn more by clicking the link below: