Questions? AskAuckland

Associate Professor Greg Ian Holwell

Profile Image
Associate Professor

Research | Current

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).

Orhci_dmantis_3_300px Dead_Leaf_Mantis_1_300px

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.

IMG_1843_300px Harvestman_300px


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.

Parentia_200px Asilid_200px


Areas of expertise

Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • O'Brien DM, Boisseau, R. P., Duell, M., McCullough, E., Powell, E. C., Somjee, U., ... Painting, C. J. (2019). Muscle mass drives cost in sexually selected arthropod weapons. Proceedings. Biological sciences, 286 (1905)10.1098/rspb.2019.1063
  • McCambridge, J. E., Walker, L. A., & Holwell, G. I. (2019). Natural history and ecology of the New Zealand sheet-web spiders Cambridgea plagiata and C. foliata (Araneae: Desidae). JOURNAL OF NATURAL HISTORY, 53 (19-20), 1153-1167. 10.1080/00222933.2019.1632951
  • Langton-Myers, S. S., Holwell, G. I., & Buckley, T. R. (2019). Weak premating isolation between Clitarchus stick insect species despite divergent male and female genital morphology. Journal of evolutionary biology, 32 (5), 398-411. 10.1111/jeb.13424
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Thomas Buckley
  • Fea, M. P., Mark, C. J., & Holwell, G. I. (2019). Sexually dimorphic antennal structures of New Zealand Cave Weta (Orthoptera: Rhaphidophoridae). NEW ZEALAND JOURNAL OF ZOOLOGY, 46 (2), 124-148. 10.1080/03014223.2018.1520266
  • Griffin, M. J., Holwell, G. I., & Symonds, M. R. E. (2019). Insect harem polygyny: when is a harem not a harem?. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY AND SOCIOBIOLOGY, 73 (4)10.1007/s00265-019-2652-5
  • LeGrice, R. J., Tezanos-Pinto, G., de Villemereuil, P., Holwell, G. I., & Painting, C. J. (2019). Directional selection on body size but no apparent survival cost to being large in wild New Zealand giraffe weevils. Evolution; international journal of organic evolution, 73 (4), 762-776. 10.1111/evo.13698
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rebecca Le Grice
  • McCambridge, J. E., Painting, C. J., Walker, L. A., & Holwell, G. I. (2019). Weapon allometry and phenotypic correlation in the New Zealand sheetweb spider Cambridgea plagiata. BIOLOGICAL JOURNAL OF THE LINNEAN SOCIETY, 126 (2), 349-359. 10.1093/biolinnean/bly170
  • Walker, L. A., & Holwell, G. (2018). Bad tenants: female sheet-web spiders, Cambridgea follata (Araneae: Desidae), lose feeding opportunities when cohabiting with males. JOURNAL OF ARACHNOLOGY, 46 (3), 391-397. 10.1636/JoA-S-17-077.1


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 1, Room 1001
New Zealand

Web links