North American species of Nebria (Coleoptera: Carabidae: Nebriini): classification, phylogeny, zoogeography, and natural history

by Dave Kavanaugh

Nebria ingens Horn. Photo by David H. Kavanaugh

The genus Nebria includes more than 550 described species and subspecies, classified among 27 different subgenera, and distributed throughout the cool and cold regions of Eurasia, North Africa, and North America.  Active mainly at night, both adults and larvae are predators of other arthropods and, especially in the extreme high mountain habitats, are often the most abundant (dominant) invertebrate predators in these areas.  More than 80 species are found in North America.  My project, begun in the late 1960’s, aims to discover, describe, and provide formal names for all the North America species, define their geographical and habitat ranges and their life cycle time and other aspects of their life history, and reconstruct their genealogical (phylogenetic) relationships through comparative study of their morphology (form and structure) and DNA sequence data.  Morphological studies have been completed and current work focuses on obtaining and analyzing DNA sequence data.  Fieldwork during the past three years has concentrated on obtaining fresh material for all species, from which DNA could be extracted.  Once developed, the hypothesis of genealogical relationships will be used to explore and interpret the evolution of structural features, behavior, habitat preference, and altitudinal and geographical distribution within this diverse group.

Sierra Nevada near Tioga Pass, California.  Photo by Dong Lin.

Cascading stream, Mount Hood, Oregon. Photo by Beverly Kavanaugh.


  • Dave Kavanaugh
  • Chairman and Curator
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • 55 Music Concourse Drive
  • San Francisco, CA 94118
  • 415-379-5315 (direct)