Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


Regional Maps


Compiler and date details

October 2010 - Dr G. Cassis, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW


The gerromorphan family Mesoveliidae is a cosmopolitan group of semiaquatic bugs. They are commonly called water-treaders or pondweed bugs. The family contains 12 genera and 46 species (Andersen & Polhemus 1980; Slater 1982; Polhemus & Polhemus 1989; Zoological Record 1980–1994; Andersen & Weir 2004a; Henry 2009; Polhemus, J.T., pers. comm.).

Mesoveliids are mostly greenish to brown, long-legged bugs, with an elongate-ovoid body. They are small, ranging in length from 1.2 to 4.5 mm. The head is large and elongate, projecting well beyond the eyes. Ocelli are present, except in apterous adults. The antennae are 4-segmented. The labium is 3-segmented, with the maxillae strongly serrated. The winged morphs have an exposed, enlarged, bipartite scutellum (undeveloped in apterous species and morphs). The adults have an omphalium metathoracic scent gland. The tarsi are 3-segmented with the first segment very small and the claws apical. Wing polymorphism is common. The forewings are homogeneous with the clavus and membrane of similar texture, the latter lacking veins. The corium has two to three closed cells. The ovipositor is well-developed, serrate and laciniate. The larvae have reduced dorsal scent glands on terga III and IV (Andersen & Polhemus 1980; Andersen 1982; Slater 1982; Dolling 1991).

The Mesoveliidae are found mostly in lentic waters, commonly associated with the edges of water bodies, and floating debris and plants. Carver et al. (1991) reported that Australian Mesovelia Mulsant & Rey species are associated with freshwater and brackish estuarine waters. Smith (1988) stated that a few mesoveliid species live on water-soaked moss or seeping rock faces. Gagné & Howarth (1975) described cavernicolous mesoveliids, which are found on moist slime fungi on the walls of lava tubes. Yuasa (1929) reported mesoveliids from the moist walls of coastal caves. Slater (1982) reported that plesiomorphic mesoveliids are found away from water bodies. The Australasian species Austrovelia queenslandica Malipatil & Monteith and Phrynovelia papua Malipatil & Monteith are secondarily terrestrial, and are found in leaf litter. Andersen (1982) concluded that the ancestral habitats of mesoveliids were either moist litter or soil, moss or seeping rock faces.

Mesoveliids are predators and scavengers, feeding on other arthropods, including ostracods (Hungerford 1917), and mosquito larvae and pupae (Brooks & Kelton 1967). Polhemus & Chapman (1979) report that North American species feed on dead or disabled insects on the water surface or on floating vegetation. Hoffmann (1932) gave a detailed account of the life histories of North American Mesovelia species. Ekblom (1928) reviewed the biology of European mesoveliid species. Southwood & Leston (1959) and Dolling (1991) reported that mesoveliids oviposit in aquatic plants. Cobben (1968) described the egg structure, embryology and eclosion of mesoveliids.

Reuter (1912) placed the Mesoveliidae close to the Nabidae and Reuviidae. Sahlberg (1920) included the mesoveliids within the Gerromorpha on the basis of labial and pretarsal structure. Scudder (1959) proposed a novel arrangement of the mesoveliids with the Saldidae because of similarities of the female genitalia. Cobben (1968, 1978) and Andersen (1982) provided the most conclusive evidence for the inclusion of the Mesoveliidae within the Gerromorpha. Andersen & Polhemus (1980) reviewed the world fauna, and included a generic key and descriptions, and a checklist of species. They recognised two subfamilies: the cosmopolitan Mesoveliinae (seven genera) and the Madeoveliinae (two genera from the Neotropical and Afrotropical regions). Other works of importance include Horváth's taxonomic revision of the family (Horváth 1915) and world catalogue (Horváth 1929). Jaczewski (1930) gave a key to the American species and Drake (1949) provided a checklist of the Western Hemisphere species. Froeschner (1981) gave an account of the mesoveliids of Ecuador. Bennett & Cook (1981) reviewed the mesoveliids of Minnesota, including a summary of their biology and morphology. Smith (1988) catalogued the North American and included three Mesovelia species. Spangler (1990) described a new Mesovelia species from Belize and gave a checklist of the New World species. Polhemus & Polhemus (2000) revised the genus Mesovelia with the descripton of two new species and new synonymy.

The Australian mesoveliid fauna comprises six Mesovelia species and one Austrovelia Malipatil & Monteith species. The most commonly encountered Mesovelia species, M. vittigera Horváth, is known from northern Australia, and is also widely distributed in the Eastern Hemisphere (Horváth 1915; Polhemus 1993). The Mesovelia species from Norfolk Island, often identified as M. hackeri Drake in museum collections, is an undescribed species (Polhemus, J.T., pers. comm.). Andersen & Polhemus (1993) listed three Australian mesoveliid species in their world checklist. Inclusion of Mesovelia horvathi Lundblad in the Catalogue is a new Australian record and is based on identifications of specimens from Queensland and the Northern Territory. Malipatil & Monteith (1983) described Austrovelia queenslandica from northern Queensland. Andersen & Weir (2004a) revised the Australian Mesoveliidae as well as a phylogenetic analysis of the infraorder Gerromorpha. They also published a key and biological notes to all Australian water bugs, including mesoveliids (Andersen & Weir 2004b).


General References

Andersen, N.M. 1982. The Semiaquatic Bugs (Hemiptera, Gerromorpha). Phylogeny, adaptations, biogeography and classification. Denmark : Scandinavian Science Press Entomonograph Vol. 3 455 pp.

Andersen, N.M. & Polhemus, J.T. 1980. Four new genera of Mesoveliidae (Hemiptera, Gerromorpha) and the phylogeny and classification of the family. Entomologica Scandinavica 11: 369-392

Andersen, N.M. & Weir, T.A. 2004. Australian Water Bugs. Their Biology and Identification (Hemiptera-Heteroptera, Gerromorpha & Nepomorpha). Entomonographen Denmark : Apollo Books Vol. 14 344 pp.

Andersen, N.M. & Weir, T.A. 2004. Mesoveliidae, Hebridae, and Hydrometridae of Australia (Hemiptera: Heteroptera: Gerromorpha), with a reanalysis of the phylogeny of semiaquatic bugs. Invertebrate Systematics 18: 467-522

Bennett, D.V. & Cook, E.F. 1981. The semiaquatic Hemiptera of Minnesota (Hemiptera: Heteroptera). Technical Bulletin. Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Minnesota 332: 1-59

Brooks, A.R. & Kelton, L.A. 1967. Aquatic and semiaquatic Heteroptera of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba (Hemiptera). Memoirs of the Entomological Society of Canada 51: 1-92

Carver, M., Gross, G.F. & Woodward, T.E. 1991. Hemiptera (bugs, leafhoppers, cicadas, aphids, scale insects, etc.) [with contributions by Cassis, G., Evans, J.W., Fletcher, M.J., Hill, L., Lansbury, I., Malipatil, M.B., Monteith, G.B., Moulds, M.S., Polhemus, J.T., Slater, J.A., Štys, P., Taylor, K.L., Weir, T.A. & Williams, D.J.]. pp. 429-509 in CSIRO (ed.). The Insects of Australia. A textbook for students and research workers. Melbourne : Melbourne University Press Vol. 1 xiii 542 pp.

Cobben, R.H. 1968. Evolutionary Trends in Heteroptera. Part I. Eggs, architecture of the shell, gross embryology and eclosion. No. 151. Wageningen : Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation Mededeling 475 pp.

Cobben, R.H. 1978. Evolutionary Trends in Heteroptera. Part II. Mouthpart-structures and feeding strategies. Wageningen : H. Veenman & B.V. Zonen 407 pp.

Dolling, W.R. 1991. The Hemiptera. Oxford : Oxford University Press ix 274 pp.

Drake, C.J. 1949. Two new Mesoveliidae, with a checklist of American species. Boletín de Entomologia Venezolana 7: 145-147

Ekblom, T. 1928. Morphological and biological studies of the Swedish families of Hemiptera-Heteroptera, part II. The families Mesoveliidea, Corizidae and Corixidae. Zoologiska Bidrag Från Uppsala 12: 113-150

Froeschner, R.C. 1981. Heteroptera or true bugs of Ecuador: a partial catalog. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 1981(322): iv 1-147

Gagné, W.C. & Howarth, F.G. 1975. The cavernicolous fauna of Hawaiian lava tubes, 6. Mesoveliidae or water treaders. Pacific Insects 16: 399-413

Hoffmann, W.E. 1932. The biology of the three North American species of Mesovelia. The Canadian Entomologist 64: 88-94

Horváth, G. 1915. Monographia des Mesoveliides. Annales Historico-Naturales Musei Nationalis Hungarici (Zoologica) 13: 535-556

Horváth, G. 1929. General Catalogue of the Hemiptera. Fascicle II. Mesoveliidae. Northampton : Smith College viii 24 pp.

Hungerford, H.B. 1917. The life-history of Mesovelia mulsanti White. Psyche (Cambridge) 24: 73-84

Jaczewski, T. 1930. Notes on the American species of the genus Mesovelia Muls. Annales Musei Zoologici Polonici 9: 3-12

Malipatil, M.B. & Monteith, M.B. 1983. One new genus and four new species of terrestrial Mesoveliidae (Hemiptera: Gerromorpha) from Australia and New Caledonia. Australian Journal of Zoology 31: 943-955

Polhemus, D.A. 1993. The Heteroptera of Aldabra Atoll and nearby Islands, Western Indian Ocean, Part 2. Freshwater Heteroptera (Insecta): Corixidae, Notonectidae, Veliidae, Gerridae and Mesoveliidae. Atoll Research Bulletin 301: 1-16

Polhemus, J.T. & Chapman, H.C. 1979. Family Mesoveliidae/water treaders. pp. 39-42 in Menke, A.S. (ed.). The Semiaquatic and Aquatic Hemiptera of California (Heteroptera: Hemiptera). Berkeley : University of California Press.

Polhemus, J.T. & Polhemus, D.A. 1989. A new mesoveliid genus and two new species of Hebrus (Heteroptera: Mesoveliidae, Hebridae) from intertidal habitats in southeast Asian mangrove swamps. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 37: 73-82

Polhemus, J.T. & Polhemus, D.A. 2000. The genus Mesovelia Mulsant & Rey in New Guinea (Heteroptera: Mesoveliidae). Journal of the New York Entomological Society 108: 205-230

Reuter, O.M. 1912. Bemerkungen über mein neues Heteropterens-System. Öfversigt af Finska Vetenskaps-Societetens Förhandlingar 54A(6): 1-62

Sahlberg, J. 1920. Enumeratio Hemipterorum-Heteropterum faunae Fennicae. Bidrag till Kännedom om Finlands Natur och Folk 79(2): 1-227

Scudder, G.G.E. 1959. The female genitalia of the Heteroptera: morphology and bearing on classification. Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London 111: 405-467

Slater, J.A. 1982. Hemiptera. pp. 417-447 in Parker, S.P. (ed.). Synopsis and Classification of Living Organisms. New York : McGraw Hill Book Co.

Smith, C.L. 1988. Family Mesoveliidae Douglas and Scott, 1867. The water treaders. pp. 247-248 in Henry, T.J. & Froeschner, R.C. (eds). Catalog of the Heteroptera, or True Bugs, of Canada and the Continental United States. Leiden : E.J. Brill xix 958 pp.

Southwood, T.R.E. & Leston, D. 1959. Land and Water Bugs of the British Isles. London : Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd xi 436 pp., 32 col. pls, 31 monotone pls.

Spangler, P.J. 1990. A new species of halophilous water-strider, Mesovelia polhemusi, from Belize and a key and checklist of New World species of the genus (Heteroptera: Mesoveliidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 103: 86-90

Yuasa, H. 1929. An ecological note on Speovelia maritima Esaki. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 10 4: 346-349


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)
05-Dec-2012 05-Dec-2012 MODIFIED
15-Aug-2012 15-Aug-2012 MODIFIED
20-Oct-2010 20-Oct-2010 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)