Family: Gyrinidae (whirligig beetles)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Arthopoda > Mandibulata > Atelocerata > Panhexapoda > Hexapoda > Insecta (insects) > Dicondyla > Pterygota > Metapterygota > Neoptera > Eumetabola > Holometabola > Coleoptera (beetles) > Suborder: Adephaga

These are the beetles one sees darting round on the water surface at high speed, often in groups. They dive readily when disturbed and use air trapped beneath the elytra for respiration. The family is distinguished from other beetles in having the compound eyes divided into two: a dorsal pair for seeing into the air and a ventral pair for seeing under water. Adults feed mainly on insects on the water surface but there are species that feed on aquatic vegetation. There are four genera and about 45 species of gyrinids in southern Africa. 

Some subfamilies, genera and species in southern Africa

Dineutus sp. Aulonogyrus sp.

Subfamily: Enhydrinae

Dineutus sp., 14mm. [image by M. Picker & C. Griffiths ©, from Field Guide to Insects of South Africa, used with permission].

Subfamily: Gyrininae

Aulonogyrus sp., 8mm. [image by M. Picker & C. Griffiths ©, from Field Guide to Insects of South Africa, used with permission].

 

Gyrinidae larva. [image by M. Picker & C. Griffiths ©, from Field Guide to Insects of South Africa, used with permission].

 

Life cycle

Eggs are laid on submerged vegetation. They hatch into elongate larvae that are predatory, feeding on bottom-dwelling (benthic) invertebrates.  The larvae have respiratory filaments on the abdomen to aid breathing underwater. At maturity they pupate above the water surface on plants or on the embankment of the water body. 

Publications

  • Brinck, P. 1955. Gyrinidae. A monograph of the whirligig beetles of Southern Africa. In: Hanström, B., Brinck, P. & Rudebeck, G. (eds.) South African Animal Life 1: 329-518.

  • Scholtz, C.H. and Holm, E. 1985. Insects of southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban. 

Page by Margie Cochrane


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