Ganglbauer (1892) divides the whole order into two sub-orders only, the Caraboidea (the Adephaga of Sharp and the older writers) and the Cantharidoidea (including all other beetles), since the larvae of Caraboidea have five-segmented, two-clawed legs, while those of all other beetles have legs with four segments and a single claw.
Kolbe (1901), who recognizes three sub-orders: (i.) the Adephaga; (ii.) the Heterophaga, including the Staphylinoidea, the Actinorhabda (Lamellicornia), the Heterorhabda (most of Sharp's Polymorpha), and the Anchistopoda (the Phytophaga, with the ladybirds and some allied families which Sharp places among the Polymorpha); (iii.) the Rhynchophora.
Kolbe, on the other hand, insists that the weevils are the most modified of all beetles, being highly specialized as regards their adult structure, and developing from legless maggots exceedingly different from the adult; he regards the Adephaga, with their active armoured larvae with two foot-claws, as the most primitive group of beetles, and there can be little doubt that the likeness between larvae and adult may safely be accepted as a primitive character among insects.
2) are Adephaga highly specialized for life in the water, the hind-legs having the segments short, broad and fringed, so as to be well adapted for swimming, and the feet without claws.
The largest and most typical family of the Adephaga (figs.
Mandibles being well adapted for the capture of small insect-victims. The larvae are more specialized than those of other Adephaga, the head and prothorax being very large and broad, the succeeding segments slender and incompletely chitinized.
With very few exceptions, the larva in this group is active and campodeiform, with cerci and elongate legs as in the Adephaga, but the leg has only four segments and one claw.