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 Major Groups | Insecta (insects) | Trichoptera (caddisflies) | Helicopsychidae


Major Group: Insecta
Order: Trichoptera
Family: Helicopsychidae
Genus: Helicopsyche
This family is represented in Australia by a single genus, Helicopsyche.

Descriptive Features: Helicopsyche larvae are unique in Australia in having a helical shaped body and case. Only features of the head and pronotum were found to be useful in identification.

  • head usually flattened dorsally to some degree and with carinae
  • antennae minute, positioned near the front margin of the head capsule
  • ventral apotome very difficult to discern due to the very light sclerotization on the head ventrally
  • pronotum heavily sclerotised, bearing long setae and short spines
  • metanotum usually very pale so the shape of the sclerites is difficult to discern, usually 3 main sclerites and a very small 4th sclerite medially, posteriorly
  • legs short, hind leg about 1 ˝X length of foreleg
  • coxae often lightly sclerotised
  • gills usually absent but multifilament gills present on  abdominal segment 1, lateral line absent
  • anal claw with a comb of small teeth
  • Total length: 10 mm
  • Case: Helical, no more than about 6 mm in diameter, made of sand grains.

      Helicopsyche sp.

      Taxonomic Checklist: Species
      (not all larvae known)
      Helicopsyche albidela Johanson 
      Helicopsyche alicae Johanson 
      Helicopsyche bartona Mosely
      Helicopsyche bellangrensis Johanson 
      Helicopsyche braueri Johanson 
      Helicopsyche cochleaetesta Korboot
      Helicopsyche curva Johanson
      Helicopsyche heacota Mosely
      Helicopsyche kakadu Johanson
      Helicopsyche neboissi Johanson
      Helicopsyche murrumba Mosely
      Helicopsyche ptychopteryx Brauer
      Helicopsyche tillyardi Mosely
      Helicopsyche tribulationa Johanson

      Distribution: N WA, NT, Tas, NSW, Qld, Vic

      Sensitivity Rating: SIGNAL grade 8

      Functional Feeding Group: scrapers


      East Alligator River, Cahills Crossing NT

      Ecology: Instream habitat: Helicopsyche larvae are typically found in cool flowing streams but some species are found in warmer waters. They are found on stones and rocks.
      Feeding ecology: Larvae graze on algae and fine organic material.
      Habit: Larvae construct helical, snail-like, cases of sand grains, giving them the common name of ‘snail shell caddis’. All helicopsychid cases have a clockwise spiral when viewed from above. Larvae are never found out of their case and are extremely difficult to remove from it in one piece, even when dead.
      Life history:


      Information Sources: St Clair 1997, Dean et al 2004, Neboiss 2003, Gooderham & Tsyrlin 2002
      Key to Species: St Clair 1997
      LUCID Key: CSIRO 2001