Museum of Southwestern Biology
Museum of Southwestern Biology

The Museum of Southwestern Biology is a research and teaching facility in the Department of Biology at the University of New Mexico.

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Museum of Southwestern Biology
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

University of New Mexico
302 Yale Blvd NE
CERIA 83, Room 204
Albuquerque, NM, USA 87131

Systematics and Biodiversity Discovery

Sexual Strategies and Species Diversity in Diving Beetles

diving beetle diversity

It is likely that the ways in which males and females compete with each other over the fertilization of gametes and production of offspring are major contributing factors to patterns of diversification of species of insects. Sexual selection often leads to rapid changes in morphology, behavior and other attributes and, ultimately, species diversification. Little, however, is known from empirical examples in insects. Diving beetles, a group of water beetles with about 4500 known species, is an ideal insect group for study of sexual selection and diversification. Diving beetles have some of the best examples in all of animals of sexual antagonism (intense conflicts between males and females over the decision to mate) and sperm competition and selection. In one example, males and females compete before copulation and males have “sucker discs” on their legs used to grasp and “subdue” resisting females, and only the males best at overcoming female reluctance are successful. Females have responded evolutionarily with rough dorsal surfaces that are difficult for males to adhere to. In other examples, females mate with any male they meet, but males compete with their sperm and females select the “best” sperm, which has led to exceptionally complexity in female reproductive tract morphology and male sperm. Kelly Miller (UNM faculty) is investigating these sexual strategies in a phylogenetic context (the evolutionary history of the group) and how intense sexual selection pressure may have led to the considerable diversity of diving beetle species we see today.

Phyletic Relationships Among Species of Fouquieriaceae


Specimens in the UNM Herbarium serve as references for investigations into the evolutionary relationships of plants. Over time the number of tools available for delimiting plant taxa and investigating groups of plants have increased. In addition to providing morphological and anatomical information, reference material also has subcellular information. Using genetic markers, it is possible to further refine relationships that were difficult to decipher solely on the basis of physical characteristics. The Ocotillos, members of the plant family, Fouquieriaceae, are one such group. Recently Joanna Redfern investigated this family and the evolutionary relationships within it. She was able to draw inferences into the speciation and the spread of these striking desert plants over time. read more...

Aridland River Foodwebs

Rio Grande at the Sevilleta

Algae, including diatoms, are the basis of many aquatic food webs and fill that role with phenomenal diversity and function. Becky Bixby, Research Assistant Professor, is interested in both “who” and “where”, as well as “how” when it comes to diatom biodiversity and ecology. These questions have driven her research program that utilizes diatoms as model organisms to ask broader questions about microbial biogeography and species responses to stressors. Research questions span from key questions about diatom biodiversity hotspots in mid-Asia and tropical streams in Costa Rica to diatom response to hydrologic disturbances in aridland rivers in the Southwest. For more information, visit