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)

  • Fisher, A. M., Cornell, S. J., Holwell, G. I., & Price, T. A. R. (2018). Sexual cannibalism and population viability. Ecology and Evolution, 8 (13), 6663-6670. 10.1002/ece3.4155
  • Fea, M., & Holwell, G. I. (2018). Exaggerated male legs increase mating success by reducing disturbance to females in the cave wētā Pachyrhamma waitomoensis. Proceedings. Biological sciences, 285 (1880).10.1098/rspb.2018.0401
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Murray Fea
  • Walker, L. A., & Holwell, G. I. (2018). The role of exaggerated male chelicerae in male–male contests in New Zealand sheet-web spiders. Animal Behaviour, 139, 29-36. 10.1016/j.anbehav.2018.02.020
  • Fea, M., & Holwell, G. (2018). Combat in a cave-dwelling wētā (Orthoptera: Rhaphidophoridae) with exaggerated weaponry. Animal Behaviour, 138, 85-92. 10.1016/j.anbehav.2018.02.009
  • Toth, C. A., Santure, A. W., Holwell, G. I., Pattemore, D. E., & Parsons, S. (2018). Courtship behaviour and display-site sharing appears conditional on body size in a lekking bat. Animal Behaviour, 136, 13-19. 10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.12.007
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Anna Santure, David Pattemore
  • Fea, M. P., Mark, C. J., & Holwell, G. I. (2018). Sexually dimorphic antennal structures of New Zealand Cave Wētā (Orthoptera: Rhaphidophoridae). New Zealand Journal of Zoology10.1080/03014223.2018.1520266
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Murray Fea
  • Painting, C. J., Myers, S., Holwell, G. I., & Buckley, T. R. (2017). Phylogeography of the New Zealand giraffe weevil Lasiorhynchus barbicornis (Coleoptera: Brentidae): A comparison of biogeographic boundaries. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 122 (1), 13-28. 10.1093/biolinnean/blx051
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Christina Painting, Thomas Buckley
  • Myers, S. S., Holwell, G. I., & Buckley, T. R. (2017). Genetic and morphometric data demonstrate alternative consequences of secondary contact in Clitarchus stick insects. Journal of Biogeography, 44 (9), 2069-2081. 10.1111/jbi.13004
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Thomas Buckley