Male water bugs in the subfamily Belostomatinae carry eggs attached to their backs by conspecific females (Fig. 21-1). Prior to the 20th century, it was believed that egg-bearers were females carrying their own eggs. Early authors attributed the depositional process to a long protrusile ovipositor which the female bug was said to extend over her back. Credit for egg-carrying was properly bestowed on the male by a woman, Florence W. Slater, in an account which included the following:
"That the male chafes under the burden is unmistakable; in fact, my suspicions as to the sex of the egg-carrier were first aroused by watching one in an aquarium, which was trying to free itself from its load of eggs, an exhibition of a lack of maternal interest not expected in a female carrying her own eggs."Slater went oil to say that when the male was attacked (by an unidentified agent), he "meekly received the blows, seemingly preferring death to the indignity of carrying and caring for the eggs." Another entomologist, in apparent accord with the "humiliated male hypothesis," stated:
"The egg-bearing male . . . dislikes exceedingly this forced servitude, and does all he can to rid himself of the burden. From time to time he passes his third pair of legs over the dorsum, apparently in an endeavor to accomplish this purpose. If he is not able to get rid of it, as sometimes happens, he carries his burden till in due time all the little ones are emerged, when he at last frees himself from it."