Entomology Department

Halobates - Oceanic Insects

Taxonomy and Identification

Nils Mĝller Andersen
Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen

Ó Copyright, N. M. Andersen & Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen


Historical overview


Literature cited

























































Fragment of one of the colour-plates from F. Buchanan White's Chellenger Report (1883) with illustrations of all known species of Halobates including structural details.

Historical overview

The genus Halobates was described In 1822 by the Estonian naturalist Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz togther with the species Halobates micans, sericeus and flaviventris. Eschscholtz served as a physician and naturalist on the Russian ship "Rurik" which sailed around the world during the years 1815 to 1818.

In 1883, F. Buchanan White's classic Challenger Report on the "pelagic Hemiptera" appeared. He redescribed the known species of Halobates, added six new species, H. germanus, hayanus, princeps, proavus, and sobrinus, and illustrated all 11 species in color, with numerous drawings in black and white of structural details.

By far the most complete taxonomic treatment of Halobates is the revision by Herring (1961), who examined all available types of species described prior to 1960, synonymized many names, described and illustrated 14 new species and offered a key to all species.

Since Herring's 1961-monograph, the following author's have added new species of Halobates: Herring (1964), Miyamoto (1967), Linnavuori (1971), Schmidt & Müller (1973), J. Polhemus (1982), J. Polhemus & Cheng (1982), Malipatil (1988), J. Polhemus & D. Polhemus (1991), Andersen & Foster (1992), Andersen & Weir (1994b, 2002). However, some of the new taxa have since been synonymized with previously described species. Here, we provide a  Checklist and Distribution updating the taxonomy of Halobates and allied genera.



Herring (1961) presented the most comprehensive key for the identification of Halobates species. Regional keys are available for the Indian Ocean (Andersen & Foster, 1992) and Australia (Andersen & Weir, 1994b).

We here provide an illustrated key which should enable workers: 

(1) to classify specimens in one of several species groups of Halobates, and

(2) to identify the most common and widespread species of Halobates, including those living on the open ocean surface.

Go to Illustrated Key to Halobates and allied genera


Literature cited

Andersen NM, Foster WA. 1992. Sea skaters of India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, with a new species and a revised key to Indian Ocean species of Halobates and Asclepios (Hemiptera, Gerridae). J. Nat. Hist. 26: 533-553.

Andersen NM, Weir TA. 1994a. Austrobates rivularis, gen. et sp. nov., a freshwater relative of Halobates (Hemiptera: Gerridae), with a new perspective on the evolution of sea skaters. Invertebrate Taxonomy 8: 1-15.

Andersen NM, Weir TA. 1994b. The sea skaters, genus Halobates Eschscholtz (Hemiptera: Gerridae), of Australia: taxonomy, phylogeny and zoogeography. Invertebrate Taxonomy 8: 861-909.

Andersen NM, Weir TA. 2002. A new species of  sea skaters, Halobates Eschscholtz, from Robinson River, Western Australia (Hemiptera-Heteroptera: Gerridae). Aquatic Insects (in press).

Eschscholtz JF. 1822. Entomographien, vol. 1 (1ste lieferung). Berlin. 128 pp.

Herring JL. 1961. The genus Halobates (Hemiptera: Gerridae). Pacific Insects 3(2-3): 223-305.

Herring JL. 1964. A new species of Halobates from the Bay of Bengal. Proc. Ent. Soc. Wash. 66: 85-86.

Linnavuori R. 1971. Hemiptera of the Sudan, with remarks on some species of adjacent countries. I. The aquatic and semiaquatic families. Ann. Zool. Fenn. 8: 340-366.

Malipatil MB. 1988. Two new species of Halobates Eschscholtz (Hemiptera: Gerridae) from Australia. J. Austr. Ent. Soc. 27: 157-160.

Miyamoto S. 1967. Gerridae of Thailand and North Borneo taken by the Joint Thai-Japanese Biological Expedition 1961-62. Nature and Life in Southeast Asia 5: 217-257.

Polhemus JT. 1982. Marine Hemiptera of the Northern Territory, including the first fresh-water species of Halobates Eschscholtz (Gerridae, Veliidae, Hermatobatidae and Corixidae). J. Austr. Ent. Soc. 21: 5-11.

Polhemus JT, Cheng L. 1982. Notes on marine water-striders with descriptions of new species. Part I. Gerridae (Hemiptera). Pacific Insects 24: 219-227.

Polhemus JT, Polhemus DA. 1991. Three new species of marine water-striders from the Australasian region, with notes on other species (Gerridae: Halobatinae, Trepobatinae). Raffles Bull. Zool. 39: 1-13.

Schmidt HE, Müller R. 1973. Marine water striders of the genus Halobates (Hemiptera: Gerridae) from the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba. Israel Journal of Zoology 22: 1-12.

White FB. 1883. Report on the pelagic Hemiptera. Voyage of Challenger, Reports, Zoology 7: 1-82.

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 Last update: 04 september 2002