Dr Greg Holwell

Senior Lecturer

Senior Lecturer

Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour

Phone: x83652
Thomas Building, Level 1, Rm139
Email: g.holwell@auckland.ac.nz

Research Interests

1. The behaviour, ecology & evolution of the praying mantids

The praying mantids are among the most charismatic but most poorly understood insect orders. My research ranges from broad ecological and evolutionary questions through to investigating specific aspects of their reproductive behaviour and morphology such as sexual cannibalism and complex genital morphology. I use a range of field and laboratory approaches to increase our knowledge of the mantids found in this corner of the world (New Zealand, Australia and South-east Asia).

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2. The evolution of genitalia

Male genital morphology evolves rapidly and divergently in comparison to other morphological traits. My research ranges from studying the functional morphology of genitalia (How do male and female genitalia interact?) to the influence of sexual selection on genital morphology (How does variation in genital morphology influence sperm transfer and fertilisation success?) and patterns of genital variation such as the genital dimorphism that occurs in the praying mantis Ciulfina baldersoni.


3. The evolution of animal weaponry

While male sexually-selected weaponry are diverse in form and function, our understanding of the mechanisms behind their diversification and complexity is still limited. A number of New Zealand invertebrates including harvestmen, spiders and the giraffe weevil, Lasiorhynchus barbicornis display exaggerated morphological traits used in contests over females. These represent great opportunities to further our understanding of the evolution of animal weaponry.

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4. Evolutionary ecology of New Zealand’s terrestrial invertebrates

I am generally interested in the evolutionary and behavioural ecology of terrestrial invertebrates and so I am happy to discuss projects with students interested in working on any of New Zealand’s fascinating terrestrial invertebrate fauna. I am keen to work with students on insects, arachnids and myriapods and there are many poorly studied groups in New Zealand awaiting our attention.

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Selected Recent Publications

O’Hanlon, J., Holwell, G.I. & Herberstein, M.E (2013). Pollinator deception in the Orchid Mantis. The American Naturalist.

Umbers, K. D. L., Tatarnic, N. J., Holwell, G.I. & Herberstein, M.E. (2013). Bright turquoise as an intraspecific signal in the chameleon grasshopper (Kosciuscola tristis). Behavioural Ecology & Sociobiology.

Umbers, K. D. L, Tatarnic, N. J., Holwell G.I., Battams, L & M. E. Herberstein (2013). Ferocious fighting between male grasshoppers. PLoS One. 7(11): e49600 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049600.

Allen, L, Barry, K, Holwell, G.I. & Herberstein, M.E. (2013). Perceived risk of sperm competition affects juvenile development and ejaculate expenditure in male praying mantids. Animal Behaviour.

Evans, J., Gasparini, C., G I Holwell, Ramnarine, I.W., Pitcher, T.E. & Pilastro, A (2011). Intraspecific evidence from guppies for correlated patterns of male and female genital trait diversification. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.2453.

G I Holwell and M E Herberstein (2010). Chirally Dimorphic Male Genitalia in Praying Mantids (Ciulfina: Liturgusidae). Journal of Morphology 271:1176-1184, 2010.

K L Barry, G I Holwell, M E Herberstein (2010). Multimodal mate assessment by male praying mantids in a sexually cannibalistic mating system. Animal Behaviour 79, 1165-1172, 2010.

G I Holwell, C Winnick, T Tregenza, M E Herberstein (2010). Genital shape correlates with sperm transfer success in the praying mantis Ciulfina klassi (Insecta: Mantodea) . Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. DOI 10.1007/s00265-009-0897-2, 2009.

G I Holwell, Barry K, and Herberstein M.E (2007). Mate location, antennal morphology and ecology in praying mantids. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 91: 307-313.

Holwell G.I. (2007). Spermatophore feeding and mating behaviour in praying mantids (Mantodea: Liturgusidae). Journal of Zoology 271 (3): 255-260.