Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory




Regional Maps


Histerids, Hydrophilids

Compiler and date details

August 2022 - ABRS updated the higher level relationships based on recent phylogenetic advances in the literature.

March 2012 - A. Newton, M. Thayer (both Field Museum, Chicago, Ill. USA), D. Jennings, T. Weir (Australian National Insect Collection, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences)

2003, 2007 - ABRS: Updated in part, see database notes

30 June 2002 - Andrew A. Calder, CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, ACT, Australia


The superfamilies Hydrophiloidea and Staphylinoidea both belong to the staphyliniform lineage. The Hydrophiloidea comprises the aquatic or semi-aquatic Hydrophilidae and terrestrial Histeridae while the Staphylinoidea are the rove beetles and their allies (Hydraenidae, Ptiliidae, Leiodidae, Scydmaenidae, Silphidae and Staphylinidae). The limits of the Hydrophiloidea have been the subject of much debate and, until fairly recently, authors recognised three superfamilies: Hydrophiloidea, Histeroidea and Staphylinoidea. However recent work investigating the phylogenetic relationships of these families has reinforced Böving & Craighead's (1931) conclusions based on larval characters of only two superfamilies: Hydrophiloidea (Hydrophilidae in the broad sense plus Histeridae, Sphaeritidae and Synteliidae) and Staphylinoidea (including Hydraenidae) (Lawrence & Britton 1991, 1994). The Hydraenidae, previously assigned to the Hydrophiloidea, have been removed to the Staphylinoidea since they share many derived larval character states of Staphylinoidea as well as sharing several unique attributes with Ptiliidae (Dybas 1976; Perkins 1980). Hansen (1991, 1995) regarded the Histeroidea as the sister group of the Hydrophiloidea as well as agreeing with the placement of Hydraenidae within Staphylinoidea as the sister group of Ptiliidae.

The Hydrophiloidea (erroneously including the Hydraenidae) was previously referred to as Palpicornia after Latreille (1817) who first introduced the common term Palpicornes for the three then existing families (Helophoridea, Hydrophilidea and Sphaerididea) of Leach (1817). In this checklist the families Hydrophilidae (in the sense of Lawrence & Britton (1991, 1994) including Spercheidae, Georissidae and Hydrochidae as subfamilies) and Histeridae comprise the Hydrophiloidea. The Sphaeritidae (Northern Europe, north-western North America and China) and Synteliidae (Japan, Mexico, Siberia and India) are not known from Australia (Lawrence 1982).

Adult hydrophiloids are mostly long lived while the larval stage typically is short, often completed within a few weeks. In the Histeridae both adult and larval stages occur in the same habitat utilising the same resources, while in the Hydrophilidae the larvae are predaceous and the adults are saprophagous. The larvae are mostly carnivorous and feed extra-orally (Lawrence & Newton 1982).

Bernhard et al. (2006) conducted a molecular phylogeny of the superfamily using a multigene analysis and concluded that Spercheidae were placed as the sister group of the remaining
Hydrophiloidea. The main hydrophiloid clade was further divided into a ‘helophorid lineage’ comprising Epimetopidae, Hydrochidae, Georissidae and Helophoridae, followed by a second clade comprising the largest family, Hydrophilidae, of which the Hydrophilinae did not recover as a monophyletic subfamily.


The compilation of the Hydrophilidae database was supported by funds from the Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) to A.A. Calder which is gratefully acknowledged. I am also indebted to Drs Keith Houston and Alice Wells, scientific editors, for their editorial advice. This work was produced using the taxonomic-bibliographic database Platypus that was developed under the aegis of the Australian Biological Resources Study.

The preparation and data entry for this work was conducted in CSIRO Entomology, Canberra and use of the Organisation's resources and facilities, particularly computing resources, is gratefully acknowledged. I particularly thank the staff of the CSIRO Black Mountain Library for their help in locating the many obscure references encountered in the compilation of this work and for their patience in processing innumerable requests for inter-library loans, many from overseas so that the original bibliographic reference could be verified.

Database Notes

Chlamydopsis updated by A. Wells, 2004, with thanks to Mike Caterino. Laccobius updated by ABRS in 2007, following Gentili (2003).

Limital Area

Distribution data in the Directory is by political and geographic region descriptors and serves as a guide to the distribution of a taxon. For details of a taxon's distribution, the reader should consult the cited references (if any) at genus and species levels.

Australia is defined as including Lord Howe Is., Norfolk Is., Cocos (Keeling) Ils, Christmas Is., Ashmore and Cartier Ils, Macquarie Is., Australian Antarctic Territory, Heard and McDonald Ils, and the waters associated with these land areas of Australian political responsibility. Political areas include the adjacent waters.

Terrestrial geographical terms are based on the drainage systems of continental Australia, while marine terms are self explanatory except as follows: the boundary between the coastal and oceanic zones is the 200 m contour; the Arafura Sea extends from Cape York to 124 DEG E; and the boundary between the Tasman and Coral Seas is considered to be the latitude of Fraser Island, also regarded as the southern terminus of the Great Barrier Reef.

Distribution records, if any, outside of these areas are listed as extralimital. The distribution descriptors for each species are collated to genus level. Users are advised that extralimital distribution for some taxa may not be complete.


General References

Bernhard, D., Schmidt, C., Korte, Fritzsch, G. & Beutel, R. 2006. Blackwell Publishing Ltd From terrestrial to aquatic habitats and back again — molecular insights into the evolution and phylogeny of Hydrophiloidea (Coleoptera) using multigene analyses. Zoologica Scripta 35: 597–606

Böving, A.G. & Craighead, F.C. 1931. An illustrated synopsis of the principal larval forms of the order Coleoptera. Entomologica Americana n.s. 11: 1-351

Caterino, M.S. 2003. New species of Chlamydopsis (Histeridae: Chlamydopsinae), with a review and phylogenetic analysis of all known species. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 49: 159-235

Dybas, H.S. 1976. The larval characters of featherwing and limulodid beetles and their family relationships in the Staphylinoidea (Coleoptera: Ptiliidae and Limulodidae). Fieldiana Zoology 70(3): 29-78

Gentili, E. 2005. The genus Laccobius Erichson, 1837 in the Australian Region (Coleoptera: Hydrophilidae). pp. 317-370 in Daccordi, M. & Giachino, P.M. (eds). Results of the Zoological Missions to Australia of the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences of Turin, Italy. II. Monografie del Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, Torino, 42, 644 pp.

Hansen, M. 1991. The Hydrophiloid beetles. Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes. Selskabs Skrifter. Kjøbenhavn 40: 1-367

Hansen, M. 1995. Evolution and classification of the Hydrophiloidea — a systematic review. pp. 321-353 in Pakaluk, J. & Ślipiński, S.A. (eds). Biology, Phylogeny, and Classification of Coleoptera; Papers Celebrating the 80th Birthday of Roy A. Crowson. Warszawa : Muzeum i Instytut Zoologii PAN Vol. 1 xii + 558 pp.

Latreille, P.A. 1817. Les Crustacés, les Arachnides et les Insectes. In, Cuvier, G.L.C.D. (ed.). Le Règne Animal distribué d'après son organisation, pour servir de base à l'histoire naturelle des animaux et d'introduction à l'anatomie comparée. Paris : Déterville Vol. 3 xxxix 653 pp.

Lawrence, J.F. 1982. Coleoptera. pp. 482-553 in Parker, S.P. (ed.). Synopsis and Classification of Living Organisms. New York : McGraw Hill Vol. 2 vii 1232 pp.

Lawrence, J.F. & Britton, E.B. 1991. Chapter 35. Coleoptera (Beetles). pp. 543-683 in Division of Entomology, CSIRO (ed.). The Insects of Australia. Ithaca, New York : Cornell University Press Vol. 2.

Lawrence, J.F. & Britton, E.B. 1994. Australian Beetles. Melbourne : Melbourne University Press x 192 pp.

Lawrence, J.F. & Newton, A.F., Jr 1982. Evolution and classification of beetles. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 13: 261-290

Leach, W.E. 1817. On the distinguishing characters of two families of coleopterous insects named Hydrophilii by Latreille, with a synopsis of the genera composing them. pp. 90-94 in Leach, W.E. (ed.). The Zoological Miscellany; being descriptions of new or interesting animals. London : R.P. Nodder Vol. 3 v 151 pp. pls 121-150.

McKenna, D.D., Farrell, B.D., Scaterino, M., Farnum, C.W., Hawks, D.C., Maddison, D.R.,Seago, A.E., Short, A.E.Z., Newton, A.F. & Thayer, M.K. 2014. Phylogeny and evolution of Staphyliniformia and Scarabaeiformia: forest litter as a stepping stone for diversification of nonphytophagous beetles. Systematic Entomology

Perkins, P.D. 1980. Aquatic beetles of the family Hydraenidae in the Western Hemisphere: Classification, biogeography and inferred phylogeny (Insecta: Coleoptera). Quaestiones Entomologicae 16: 3-554


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
01-Jul-2020 15-Aug-2014 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)