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Heteroptera is a group of about 40,000 species of insects in the order Hemiptera. Sometimes called "true bugs",[1] that name more commonly refers to Hemiptera as a whole, and "typical bugs" might be used as a more unequivocal alternative since among the Hemiptera the heteropterans are most consistently and universally termed "bugs". "Heteroptera" is Greek for "different wings": most species have forewings with both membranous and hardened portions (called hemelytra); members of the primitive Enicocephalomorpha have wings that are completely membranous.

The name "Heteroptera" is used in two very different ways in modern classifications; in Linnean nomenclature it commonly appears as a suborder within the order Hemiptera, where it can be paraphyletic or monophyletic depending on its delimitation. In phylogenetic nomenclature it is used as an unranked clade within the Prosorrhyncha clade which in turn is in the Hemiptera clade. This results from the realization that the Coleorrhyncha are actually just a "living fossil" relative of the traditional Heteroptera, close enough to them to be actually united with that group.

The Gerromorpha and Nepomorpha contain most of the aquatic and semi-aquatic members of the Heteroptera, while nearly all of the remaining groups that are common and familiar are in the Cimicomorpha and Pentatomomorpha.


The use of the name "Heteroptera" has had the rank of order, dating back to 1810 by Latreille. It is only recently that it has been relegated to a subsidiary rank within a larger definition of Hemiptera, so many reference works still include it as an order. Whether to continue treating it as a suborder is still a subject of some controversy, as is whether the name itself should ever be used, although three basic approaches ranging from abolishing it entirely to maintaining the taxonomy with a slight change in systematics are proposed, two of which (but not the traditional one) agree with the phylogeny. The competing classifications call for a preference for two suborders versus one when the "living fossil" family Peloridiidae is taken into consideration:

In one revised classification proposed in 1995,[2] the name of the suborder is Prosorrhyncha, and Heteroptera is a rankless subgroup within it. The only difference between Heteroptera and Prosorrhyncha is that the latter includes the family Peloridiidae, which is a tiny relictual group that is in its own monotypic superfamily and infraorder. In other words, the Heteroptera and Prosorrhyncha sensu Sorensen et al. are identical except that Prosorrhyncha contains one additional infraorder, called Peloridiomorpha (comprising only 13 small genera). The ongoing conflict between traditional, Linnaean classifications and non-traditional classifications is exemplified by the problem inherent in continued usage of the name Heteroptera when it no longer can be matched to any standard Linnaean rank (as it falls below suborder but above infraorder). If this classification succeeds, then the "Heteroptera" grouping may be discarded, but in that case it is likely that no ranks will be used at all according to the standards of phylogenetic nomenclature.

In the traditional classification,[3] the Peloridiidae are retained as their own suborder, called Coleorrhyncha; "Heteroptera" is treated the same. Functionally, the only difference between this classification and the preceding is that the former uses the name Prosorrhyncha to refer to a particular clade, while the traditional approach divides this into the paraphyletic Heteroptera and the monophyletic Coleorrhyncha. Many believe it is preferable to use only one name because the characteristics of the two traditional suborders are too closely related to be treated as separate.

Alternatively,[4] the modified approach of placing Coleorrhyncha within the Heteroptera can be used. Indeed, as that solution preserves the well-known Heteroptera at the taxonomic rank they traditionally hold while making them a good monophyletic group, it seems preferable to the paraphyletic "Heteroptera" used in older works. In that case, the "core" Heteroptera could be considered a section – as yet unnamed, mainly because the Prosorrhyncha were proposed earlier – within the "expanded" Heteroptera, or the latter could simply be described as consisting of a basal "living fossil" lineage and a more apomorphic main radiation. Whether the name "Coleorrhyncha" is to be retained for the basal lineage or whether the more consistent "Peloridiomorpha" is used instead is a matter of taste, as described below.

Separate from the question of the actual "closeness" of Heteroptera and Coleorrhyncha is the potential disruption to traditional construction of names; there seems to be reluctance among hemipterists to abandon the use of "Heteroptera". This can be seen by the name itself, as it is a violation of convention to use the ending "-ptera" for any rank above genus other than an order – though since it is a convention rather than a mandatory rule of Linnean nomenclature, taxonomists are technically free to violate it (which is why, for example, not all insect orders end in "-ptera", e.g., Odonata). However, in most cases when such conventions are violated, it does not create an internal conflict as in the present case (that is, the order Hemiptera has a suborder named Heteroptera, which is an internal conflict). At least some hemipterists argue that the name Heteroptera should be dropped entirely to eliminate this internal conflict, though the third possibility offers a workaround. In that case, to achieve full consistency of names "Coleorrhyncha" would probably be dropped in favor of "Peloridiomorpha".

An assassin bug nymph (Zelus sp.)

Selected families of Heteroptera[edit]

Heteroptera Anatomy[edit]

Generalized morphology of a Shield bug Pentatomoidea

A: head; B: thorax; C: abdomen. 1: claws; 2: tarsus; 3: tibia; 4: femur; 8: compound eye; 9: antenna; 10: clypeus; 23: laterotergites; 25: pronotum; 26: scutellum; 27: clavus; 28: corium; 29: embolium; 30: membrane.


"Waterbugs" is a common name for a number of aquatic insects, most of which are classified in the infraorders Gerromorpha and Nepomorpha of the order Hemiptera. The latter infraorder contains those taxa that were once known as the "Gymnocerata". Note that the term "water bug" is very often applied to some cockroaches, which are not true bugs and as Dictyoptera not even close to them (true bugs are Paraneoptera).

Selected families of water bugs[edit]


  1. ^ ToL (2005)
  2. ^ Sorensen et al. (1995)
  3. ^ E.g. Maddison (1995)
  4. ^ E.g. ABRS (1995)


External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heteroptera — Please support Wikipedia.
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111 news items

Entomology Today

Entomology Today
Mon, 27 Apr 2015 06:52:30 -0700

Two new insect species have been added to the 900,000+ species that have previously been described: Ambrysus cayo, which was found in streams in western Belize, and Procryphocricos pilcopata, which was found in streams in southeastern Peru.
Science News
Tue, 23 Dec 2014 16:45:35 -0800

Evidence of population-level lateralized behaviour in giant water bugs, Belostoma flumineum Say (Heteroptera: Belostomatidae): T-maze turning is left biased. Behavioral Processes. Vol. 7, September 2008, p. 66. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2008.04.001.

Popular Science

Popular Science
Wed, 19 Nov 2014 04:10:58 -0800

This is the much more widely used name in the UK for the Pentatomidae, Scutelleridae and allied families of the order of insects called the Heteroptera, or true bugs. All of them have glands producing nasty smelling defensive secretions, but they are ...


Tue, 23 Dec 2014 03:34:17 -0800

Sinea incognita, an assassin bug that was previously believed to be the same species as Sinea complexa. Credit: Entomological Society of America. Sometimes new insect species are discovered in the wild, and sometimes they are discovered in the drawers ...

Science 2.0

Science 2.0
Mon, 05 Jan 2015 10:30:50 -0800

... with Designations of Lectotypes and Paralectotypes for Sinea complexa and Sinea integra and Analysis and Comparison of the Three Species (Hemiptera: Heteroptera: Reduviidae: Harpactorinae)," http://aesa.oxfordjournals.org/lookup/doi/10.1093/aesa/ ...

Entomology Today

Entomology Today
Mon, 01 Dec 2014 12:43:04 -0800

My colleagues from the Insect Systematics Lab at North Dakota State University and I described some new species of Heteroptera. One of our bugs came from Chile, my home country. It was found in an area of the country that is pretty well-collected ...

The Conversation UK

The Conversation UK
Tue, 11 Nov 2014 22:29:50 -0800

This is the much more widely used name in the UK for the Pentatomidae, Scutelleridae and allied families of the order of insects called the Heteroptera, or true bugs. All of them have glands producing nasty smelling defensive secretions, but they are ...


Tue, 09 Sep 2014 04:10:10 -0700

Assassin bugs (family Reduviidae) belong to the order Hemiptera and the suborder Heteroptera, the so called "true bugs." Altogether, nearly 7,000 species of assassin bugs have been described worldwide, of which about 50 are native to California.

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