Testing concepts of island biogeography using Australasian Copelatinae diving beetles (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae)

Project leader:

Dr. Helena Shaverdo

Prolongation and Fond support:

2018 – dato
01.09.2018 –  31.08.2022: FWF, Einzelprojekt Nr. P 31347-B25


In the present project, we are going to test some postulates of island biogeography using diving beetles of the subfamily Copelatinae in the Australasian Realm. This region is attractive for scientific research not only because it is one of the few remaining major tropical wilderness areas with a very rich biodiversity, but also because of the complexity of its geological origin and colonization history in combination with the scarcity of information on all of them. No data on water beetles from many parts of the region were available until scientists of ZSM and NHMW initiated a study on diving beetles (Dytiscidae) in 1995. Copelatinae is the second largest subfamily of Dytiscidae and one of its most taxonomically and phylogenetically enigmatic groups. In Australasia, the subfamily is represented by its speciose genera: Copelatus Erichson, 1832 and Exocelina Broun, 1886. While the latter has been well studied in our previous project, Copelatus stays poorly examined being the most species-rich and taxonomically challenging genus of Dytiscidae. The main project goal is to investigate the evolution of the species diversity of Copelatinae in the complex geological and ecological environment of Australasia using the obtained phylogenetic hypotheses. We will 1) carry out a taxonomic revision of Copelatus and describe new species, 2) test species limits based on morphological and molecular data, 3) analyze phylogenetic relationships of the genus based on molecular data, 4) investigate evolution of genus morphology using molecular trees, 5) continue to study Exocelina: new species descriptions, biogeography, 6) study biogeographical and ecological aspects of the Copelatinae using our theories and experience from the previous project. The project will be carried out at the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien by Dr H. Shaverdo, and is planned as an international cooperation with Dr M. Balke and Dr L. Hendrich, Zoologische Staatssammlung München, Germany and Dr J. Hájek, Národní Museum Praha, Prague, Czechia. We believe that our project is of great importance since it will bring new data in two aspects. First: the results will test several general concepts in island biogeography, e.g. dispersion vs vicariance; equilibrium model and influence of island geological history on it: colonization, adaptive radiation, diversification and extinction; endemism; nestedness as important form of structure in island assemblages, and in systematics, e.g. a) success of an integrate approach for species delimitation; b) more than 80 species new to science will be described. The second aspect is important for the group: a) for the first time, phylogenetic analyses of the genus Copelatus will be performed based on molecular and morphological data to reconstruct the biogeographical evolution of this group; b) a new preliminary supraspecific classification of Copelatus will be proposed; c) first keys, illustrated with drawings and digital images, will be created as part of the cybertaxonomy infrastructure - the most innovative aspect. Results of our project will have an implication not only for other biological disciplines (e.g. ecology, and nature inventory and conservation) but also for popularization of nature study and conservation and training of local people as parataxonomists.

Progress of the taxonomic work:

Publizierte neue Copelatus Arten im Projekt: 7 sp.
N group Number of species (newly described) Reference of group introduction, key to species, or species description
1 Copelatus of Australia 9 (1) Hendrich et al. (2019)
2 Copelatus of the Solomon Islands 10 (6) Hájek et al. (2021)
For information on the genus Exocelina, please see the project „Taxonomic revision, phylogenetic analysis, and biogeography of diving beetles of the genus Exocelina Broun, 1886 in New Guinea“.


  1. Lars Hendrich, Helena Shaverdo, Jiří Hájek & Michael Balke (2019). Taxonomic revision of Australian Copelatus Erichson, 1832 (Coleoptera, Dytiscidae, Copelatinae), ZooKeys 889: 81–152, doi: 10.3897/zookeys.889.39090.
  2. Jiří Hájek, Helena Shaverdo, Lars Hendrich & Michael Balke (2021). A review of Copelatus diving beetles from the Solomon Islands, reporting the discovery of six new species (Coleoptera, Dytiscidae, Copelatinae). ZooKeys 1023: 81-118. Doi: 10.3897/zookeys.1023.61478


  1. November 22-23, 2018: the 12th Annual Meeting of NOBIS. Naturmuseum Südtirol, Bozen, Italia. Presentation: Shaverdo, H. & Balke, M. Study of Copelatinae (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae) of Australasia.
  2. July 20-24, 2019: Balfour-Brown Club meeting, Abisko, Schweden. Presentation: Shaverdo, H., Wewalka, G., Balke, M., Hendrich, L. & Hájek, J. Study of Copelatinae (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae) of Australasia.
  3. February 17, 2021: Balfour-Brown Club Online meeting. Presentation: Shaverdo, H., Balke, M., Hendrich, L. & Hájek, J. Update to study of Copelatinae (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae) in Australasia.


ReserchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/project/Australasian-Copelatinae-Coleoptera-Dytiscidae
Zoobank: http://zoobank.org/NomenclaturalActs/294c8a13-b08a-4815-b6b1-944ceed737ef
Genbank: Drya