Associate Professor Greg Ian Holwell

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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).

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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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Areas of expertise

Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Bennik, R. M., Hoare, R. J. B., & Holwell, G. (2020). Seasonal variation in body size and male mating success within lichen tuft mothsIzatha(Lepidoptera: Xyloryctidae). AUSTRAL ENTOMOLOGY10.1111/aen.12495
  • Walker, L. A., Vink, C. J., Holwell, G., & Buckley, T. R. (2020). A preliminary molecular phylogeny for New Zealand sheet-web spiders (Cambridgea) and comparison of web-building behaviour. NEW ZEALAND JOURNAL OF ZOOLOGY, 47 (3), 187-205. 10.1080/03014223.2019.1672760
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Thomas Buckley
  • Fisher, A. M., Cornell, S. J., Holwell, G. I., & Price, T. A. R. (2020). Mate-finding Allee effects can be exacerbated or relieved by sexual cannibalism. The Journal of animal ecology, 89 (7), 1581-1592. 10.1111/1365-2656.13214
  • Fea, M. P., Boisseau, R. P., Emlen, D. J., & Holwell, G. I. (2020). Cybernetic combatants support the importance of duels in the evolution of extreme weapons. Proceedings. Biological sciences, 287 (1928)10.1098/rspb.2020.0254
  • Powell, E. C., Painting, C. J., Hickey, A. J., & Holwell, G. (2020). Defining an intrasexual male weapon polymorphism in a New Zealand harvestman (Opiliones: Neopilionidae) using traditional and geometric morphometrics. BIOLOGICAL JOURNAL OF THE LINNEAN SOCIETY, 130 (2), 395-409. 10.1093/biolinnean/blaa040
  • Fisher, A. M., Holwell, G. I., & Price, T. A. R. (2020). Behavioural correlations and aggression in praying mantids. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 74 (5).10.1007/s00265-020-02839-8
  • Horrocks, K. J., Avila, G. A., Holwell, G. I., & Suckling, D. M. (2020). Integrating sterile insect technique with the release of sterile classical biocontrol agents for eradication: is the Kamikaze Wasp Technique feasible?. BIOCONTROL, 65 (3), 257-271. 10.1007/s10526-020-09998-7
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Max Suckling
  • Griffin, M. J., Holwell, G., & Symonds, M. R. E. (2019). Sex ratio and female allocation to harems in a polygynous bark beetle. AUSTRAL ENTOMOLOGY, 59 (1), 149-155. 10.1111/aen.12440


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 1, Room 1001
New Zealand

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