Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


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


The Veliidae, commonly known as small water striders or riffle bugs, are a speciose family of gerromorphan bugs. At present six subfamilies, 61 genera and 962 species are recognised in the family (Andersen 1982; Zoological Record 1980–1994; Henry 2009; Polhemus, J.T., pers. comm.). The veliid taxa Microveliinae, Rhagoveliinae, Veliinae, Rhagovelia Mayr and Microvelia Westwood are known from all major zoogeographic regions. The marine Haloveliinae are found mostly along the Indo-Pacific continents.

The veliid body form varies from oval to elongate and from 1.5 to 9 mm in length. The body is covered with velvety hydrofuge hairs. The head is short and transverse with a fine groove impressed on the frons and postclypeus. Three pairs of cephalic trichobothria are present. The eyes are usually large and ocelli are usually absent. The antennae are 4-segmented. The labium is 4-segmented, slender, and usually reaches the mesosternum. The forewings usually have four to six cells and an undifferentiated membrane. Wing polymorphism is common, with apterous, brachypterous, micropterous and macropterous forms known. Metathoracic glands are always present; they have a large reservoir, a dorsal accessory gland and open on the metasternum. The scent efferent system has an elongate peritreme with tufts of setae and evaporative areas. The larvae lack dorsal abdominal gland openings. The legs are relatively short, the coxae are separated, the femora are moderately incrassate, and the tibiae have grasping combs. The tarsal formula varies but is usually 1:2:2. The pretarsi are inserted preapically and have symmetrical claws, with a pair of arolia and a pair of setiform parempodia. The male genitalia are characterised by a membranous vesica and large parameres (Andersen 1982; Slater 1982).

Veliids are predaceous and feed on a variety of aquatic invertebrates, including ostracods, Daphnia Müller and mosquito larvae (Polhemus & Chapman 1979). Andersen (1989b) reported that veliids are both predators and scavengers, and the diet of some species consists of planktonic crustaceans. They inhabit lotic and lentic freshwater, marine habitats, and a few species are found in terrestrial habitats. Semiaquatic species are usually found on water surfaces but are known to crawl over mudflats and wet rocks (Smith 1988). Genera often show marked habitat specialisations. Microvelia species are commonly known from the margins of quiet waters, usually with emergent vegetation, and are found in large aggregations in Australia. Rhagovelia species are usually found in running waters and R. australica Kirkaldy is found in loose aggregations in fresh running water in northern Queensland. The marine Halovelia Bergroth species are usually found in the intertidal zone of coral and rocky outcrops in the Old World tropics (Andersen 1982).

Štys (1976) provided a revised suprageneric classification of the Veliidae. Andersen (1982) gave a thorough account of the classification, recognising six subfamilies: Ocelloveliinae, Microveliinae, Haloveliinae, Rhagoveliinae, Perittopinae and Veliinae. Andersen (1982) provided a cladistic classification of these subfamilies, with the Ocelloveliinae as the most basal group and the other subfamilies in two groups: Microveliiformes (Haloveliinae and Microveliinae) and Veliiformes (Rhagoveliinae, Perittopinae and Veliinae). The Microveliinae are divided into three tribes: Hebroveliini, Velohebriini and Microveliini but these tribal classifications are not used in the Catalogue. Andersen & Weir (2004a) proposed a phylogeny of Gerridae and discussed their position relative to the family Veliidae and the remainder of the Gerromorpha. Andersen & Weir (2004b) gave an identification key of water bugs of Australia that included all Australian gerrid species.

The Australian Veliidae are represented by three subfamilies, four genera and 65 species. The Haloveliinae are represented by Halovelia (five species) and Xenobates Esaki (eight species). Andersen (1992) gave a key to the genera of Haloveliinae. Andersen (1989a) reviewed the taxonomy of Halovelia and described four new species from the Australian Region. Lansbury (1989) also revised the Australian Haloveliinae and described one new species of Halovelia from a swamp on Stradbroke Island (Queensland). Andersen (1969) reviewed Australian Microvelia and gave a description of one new species and a checklist of the Australian species. Malipatil (1980) revised Australian Microvelia, established new synonymies, described two new species, and gave a key to species. The Rhagoveliinae are represented in Australia by Rhagovelia australica. Many new taxa from Australia were described by Andersen & Wier (1999, 2002, 2003). Those authors (Andersen & Weir 1999) revised Haloveliinae from Australia, New Caledonia and New Guinea and decribed 6 new species of Xenobates from Australia. More recently they described six new genera and 21 new species from the family Veliidae (Andersen & Weir 2002). However, we treat those genera as subgenera. Andersen and Weir (2003) described 30 species for the genus Microvelia.


General References

Andersen, N.M. 1969. A new Microvelia from Australia with a check-list of Australian species (Hemiptera, Veliidae). Entomologiske Meddelelser 37: 253-261

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. 1989. The coral bugs, genus Halovelia Bergroth (Hemiptera, Veliidae). I. History, classification, and taxonomy of species except the H. malaya-group. Entomologica Scandinavica 20: 75-120

Andersen, N.M. 1989. The coral bugs, genus Halovelia Bergroth (Hemiptera, Veliidae). II. Taxonomy of the H. malaya-group, cladistics, ecology, biology, and biogeography. Entomologica Scandinavica 20: 179-227

Andersen, N.M. 1992. A new genus of marine water striders (Hemiptera: Veliidae) with five new species from Malesia. Entomologica Scandinavica 22: 389-404

Andersen, N.M. & Weir, T.A. 1999. The marine Haloveliinae (Hemiptera: Veliidae) of Australia, New Caledonia and southern New Guinea. Invertebrate Taxonomy 13: 309-350

Andersen, N.M. & Weir, T.A. 2001. New genera of Veliidae (Hemiptera : Heteroptera) from Australia, with notes on the generic classification of the subfamily Microveliinae. Invertebrate Taxonomy 15(2): 217-258

Andersen, N.M. & Weir, T.A. 2003. The genus Microvelia in Australia (Hemiptera: Heteroptera: Veliidae). Invertebrate Systematics 17: 261-348

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

Henry, T.J. 2009. Biodiversity of the Heteroptera. pp. 223–263 in Foottit, R.G. & Adler P.H. (eds). Insect Biodiversity: Science and Society. Oxford : Wiley-Blackwell.

Lansbury, I. 1989. Notes on the Haloveliinae of Australia and the Solomon Islands (Insecta, Hemiptera, Heteroptera, Veliidae). Reichenbachia 26: 93-109

Malipatil, M.B. 1980. Review of Australian Microvelia Westwood (Hemiptera: Veliidae) with a description of two new species from eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 31: 85-108

Polhemus, J.T. & Chapman, H.C. 1979. Family Veliidae/small water striders, water crickets, riffle bugs. pp. 49-57 in Menke, A.S. (ed.). The Semiaquatic and Aquatic Hemiptera of California (Heteroptera: Hemiptera). Berkeley : University of California Press.

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 Veliidae Amyot and Serville, 1843. The small water striders. pp. 734-742 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.

Štys, P. 1976. Velohebria antennalis gen. n., sp. n.—a primitive terrestrial microveliine from New Guinea, and a revised classification of the family Veliidae (Heteroptera). Acta Entomologica Bohemoslovaca 73: 388-403


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)
14-Dec-2015 VELIIDAE 14-Dec-2015 REVIEWED Prof Gerry Cassis
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)