Secondary sexual characters in crawling water beetles (Coleoptera: Haliplidae): evidence for sexual conflict?

Katy Potts


Conflict between sexes occurs as a result of asymmetric reproductive trade-offs during mating. When the rates of these trade-offs differ, sexual conflict can occur, this can lead to coevolutionary arms races between the sexes. Such arms races may result in the evolution of secondary sexual characteristics and the coevolution of sex related structures. This study analysed the morphology of three genera of Haliplidae: Haliplus, Brychius and Algophilus using Scanning Electron Microscopy to determine whether there was evidence of sexual conflict. Males in this family possess small tarsal suckers on the fore and mid-legs that aid the male to grasp the female’s dorsal surface during mating, potentially increasing reproductive success. Females also possess micropunctation on the dorsal surface which may deter male attachment. This study investigates the notion of female evolution of sex related counteradaptations that reduce potentially costly copulations. Results from this study indicate that there is little covariance in secondary sexual characters between the sexes this family as a whole (P = 0.934, r = -0.030). However, there was significant evidence of differentiation in sex-specific characters amongst
certain species, inferring that characters may be evolving phylogenetically. Further investigation into specific clades of Haliplidae would be beneficial, as an equivalent comparison can be made between sexes of the same clade.

Keywords: coevolution; counteradaptation; evolutionary arms races; morphology; sexual arms race; sexual dimorphism.

Full Text:



Aiken RB, Khan A. 1992. The adhesive strength of the palettes of males of the boreal water beetle, Ditiscus alaskanus J. Balfour Brown (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae). Canadian Zoology. 70: 1321-1324.

Andersson J, Borg-Karlson AK, Wiklund C. 2000. Sexual cooperation and conflict in butterflies: a male-transferred anti-aphrodisiac reduces harassment of recently mated females. Proceedings of the Royal Society. 267: 1271-1275.

Arbuthnott D, Dutton EM, Agrawal, Rundle HD. 2013. The ecology of sexual conflict: ecologically dependant parallel evolution of male harm and female resistance in Drosophila melanogaster. Ecology Letters. 17: 221-228.

Arnqvist G. 1989. Sexual selection in a water strider: the function, mechanism of selection and heritability of a male grasping apparatus. OIKOS. 56: 344-350.

Arnqvist G. 1997. The evolution of water strider mating systems: causes and consequences of sexual conflicts. In: Choe JC, Crespo BJ, eds. The evolution of mating systems in insects and arachnids. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 146-163.

Arnqvist G, Nilsson T. 2000. The evolution of polyandry: multiple mating and female fitness in insects. Animal Behaviour. 60: 145-164.

Arnqvist G, Rowe L. 1995. Sexual conflict and arms races between the sexes: a morphological adaptation for control of mating in a female insect. The Royal Society. 261: 123-127.

Arnqvist G, Rowe L. 2002. Antagonistic coevolution between the sexes in a group of insects. Nature. 415: 787-789.

Arnqvist G, Rowe L. 2005. Sexual Conflict. Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press.

Balke M, Ribera I, Beutel RG. 2005. The systematic position of Aspidytidae, the diversification of Dytiscoidea (Coleoptera, Adephaga) and the phylogenetic signal of third codon positions. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. 43: 223-242.

Bateman AJ. 1948. Intra-sexual selection in Drosophila. Heredity. 2: 349-368.

Benvenuto C, Weeks SC. 2012. Intersexual conflict during mate guarding in an androdioecious crustacean. Behavioural Ecology. 23: 218-224.

Bergsten J, Toyra A, Nilsson AN. 2001. Intraspecific variation and intersexual correlation in secondary sexual characters of three diving beetles (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 73: 221-232.

Bilton DT, Thompson A, Foster GN. 2008. Inter- and intrasexual dimorphism in the diving beetle Hydroporus memnonius Nicolai (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 94: 685-697.

Brommer JE, Fricke C, Edward DA, Chapman T. 2012. Interactions between genotype and sexual conflict environment influence transgenerational fitness in Drosophila melanogaster. Evolution. 66: 517-531.

Candolin U, Heuschele J. 2008. Is sexual selection beneficial during adaptation to environmental change? Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 8: 446-452.

Chapman T. 2006. Evolutionary Conflicts of Interests between Males and Females. Current Biology. 16: 744-754.

Chapman T, Arnqvist G, Bangham J, Rowe L. 2003. Sexual conflict. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 18: 41-47.

Darwin CR. 1871. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. London: John Murray.

Dressler C, Beutel RG. 2010. The morphology and evolution of the adult head of Adephaga (Insecta: Coleoptera). Arthropods Systematics & Phylogeny. 68: 239-287.

Drotz MK, Brodin T, Nilsson AN. 2010. Multiple origins of Elytral Reticulation Modifications in the West Palearctic Agabus bipustulatus Complex (Coleoptera, Dytiscidae). PLOS ONE. 5: 1-13.

Eberhard WG. 2001. Species-specific genitalic copulatory courtship in Sepsid flies (Diptera, Sepsidae, Microsepsis) and theories of genitalic evolution. Species-specific genitalic copulatory courtship in Sepsid flies (Diptera, Sepsidae, Microsepsis) and theories of genitalic evolution. Evolution. 1: 93-102.

Fricke C, Perry J, Chapman, T, Rowe L. 2009. The conditional economics of sexual conflict. Biology Letters. 5: 671-674.

Gagnon MC, Turgeon J. 2011. Sexual conflict in Gerris gillettei (Insecta: Hemiptera): intraspecfic intersexual correlated morphology and experimental assessment of behaviour and fitness. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 24: 1505-1516.

Gavrilets S. 2000. Rapid evolution of reproductive barriers driven by sexual conflict. Nature. 403: 886-889.

Gavrilets S, Waxman D. 2002. Sympatric speciation by sexual conflict. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 16: 10533-10538.

Gay, L, Brown LGE, Tregenza T, Pincheira-Donoso D, Eadys PE, Vasudevs R, Hunt J, Hosken DJ. 2011. The genetic architecture of sexual conflict: male harm and female resistance in Callosobruchus maculatus. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 24: 449-456.

Ghiselin MT. 2010. The Distinction between Primary and Secondary Sexual Characters. In: The Evolution of Primary Sexual Characters in Animals. 2010. Edited by: Leonard JL, Cordoba-Aguilar AC. Oxford University Press. New York.

Gorb S. 2001. Attachment devices of Insect Cuticle. Kluwer Academic Press. The Netherlands.

Gosden TP, Svensson EI. 2007. Female Sexual Polymorphisms and Fecundity Consequences of Male Mating Harassment in the Wild. PLoS ONE. 10: 1-5.

Green KK, Kovalev A, Svensson EI, Gorb SN. 2013. Male clasping ability, female polymorphism and sexual conflict: fine scale elytral morphology as a sexually antagonistic adaptation in female diving beetles. Journal of The Royal Society 10: 4-9.

Han CS, Jablonski PG, Kim B, Park FC. 2010. Size-assortative mating and sexual size dimorphism are predictable from simple mechanics of mate grasping behavior. BMC. Evolutionary Biology. 10: 359-374.

Hostedde AS, Alarie Y. 2006. Morphological patterns of sexual selection in the diving beetle Graphoderus liberus. Evolutionary Ecology Research. 8: 891-901.

Inoda T, Hardling R, Kubota S. 2012A. The inheritance of intrasexual dimorphism in female diving beetles (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae). Zoological Science. 8: 505-509.

Inoda T, Ohta M, Suzuki G, Kubota S. 2012B. Female dimorphism in Japanese diving beetle Dytiscus marginalis czerskii (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae) evidence by mitochondrial gene sequence analysis. Entomological Science. 15: 357-360.

Krell FT. 2008. Handbuch der Zoologie Handbook of Zoology Band/Volume IV Arthropoda: Insecta, Part 38, Coleoptera, Beetles. Volume 1: Morphology and Systematics. Systematic

Entomology. 33: 217-218.

Miller KB. 2003. The phylogeny of diving beetles (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae) and the evolution of sexual conflict. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 79: 359-388.

Parker GA. 1979. Sexual selection and sexual conflict. In: Sexual Selection and Reproductive Competition in Insects. Blum MS, Blum NA. 1979. New York: Academic Press.

Parker GA. 2006. Sexual conflict over mating and fertilisation: an overview. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 361: 235-259.

Perry JC, Rowe L. 2012. Sexual conflict and antagonistic coevolution across Water Strider populations. Evolution. 66: 544-557.

Pizzari T, Snook RR. 2003. Perspective: sexual conflict and sexual selection: chasing away paradigm shifts. Evolution. 6: 1223-1236.

Reinhardt K, Naylor R, Siva-Jothy MT. 2003. Reducing a cost of traumatic insemination: female bed bugs evolve a unique organ. Proceedings of The Royal Society. 22: 2371-2375.

Ribera I, Beutel RG, Balke M, Volger AP. 2002. Discovery of Aspidytidae, a new family of aquatic Coleoptera. Proceedings of the Royal Society. 269: 2351-2356.

Ribera I, Foster GN. 1997. Functional types of diving beetle (Coleoptera: Hygrobiidae and Dytiscidae), as identified by comparative swimming behaviour. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 61: 537-558.

Ronn J, Katvala M, Arnqvist G. 2006. The costs of mating and egg production in Callosobruchus seed beetles. Animal Behaviour. 2: 335-342.

Rowe L, Arnqvist G, Sih A, Krupa JJ. 1994. Sexual conflict and the evolutionary ecology of mating patterns: Water Striders as a model system. Tree. 9: 289-293.

Rundle HD, Nagel L, Boughman JW, Schluter D. 2000. Natural selection and parallel speciation in sympatric sticklebacks. Science. 287: 306-308.

Stork NE. 1980. A scanning electron microscope study of tarsal adhesive setae in the Coleoptera. Zoological journal of the Linnean Society. 68: 173-306.

Svensson EI, Abbot JK, Gosden TP, Coreau A. 2007. Female polymorphism, sexual conflict and limits to speciation processes in animals. Evolutionary Ecology. 267: 1271-1275.

Tregenza T, Wedell N, Chapman T. 2005. Introduction. Sexual conflict: a new paradigm? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 361: 229-234.

Voigt D, Schuppert JM, Dattinger S, Gorb SN. 2008. Sexual dimorphism in the attachment ability of the Colorado potato beetle Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Coleoptera: Chrysomedidae) to rough substrates. Journal of Insect Physiology. 5: 765-76.

Vondel VB. 1997. Haliplidae Aube, 1836. In: Beutel RG, Leschen R. 2005. Volume 1: Morphology and systematics (Archostemata, Adephaga, Myxophaga). Walter de Gruyter.

Vondel VB, Dettner K. 1997. Insecta: Coleoptera: Haliplidae, Noteridae, Hygrobiidae. Gustav Fischer.

Wedell N, Kvarnemo C, Lessells M, Tregenza T. 2006. Sexual conflict and life histories. Animal Behaviour. 71: 999-1011.

Weir LK, Grant JWA, Hutchings JA. 2011. The Influence of Operational Sex Ratio on the Intensity of Competition for Mates. The American Naturalist. 177: 167-176.

Wolfe GW, Zimmerman JR. 1984. Sensilla, Punctation, Reticulation, and body shape in the Hydroporinae (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae). International Journal of Insect Morphology and Embryology. 13: 373-387.

Yasui Y. 1997. A “good-sperm” model can explain the evolution of costly multiple mating by females. The American Naturalist. 149: 573-584.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License 
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

ISSN 1754-2383 [Online] ©University of Plymouth