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 Major Groups | Insecta (insects) | Odonata (dragonflies, damselflies) | Petaluridae


Major Group: Insecta
Order: Odonata
Family: Petaluridae
Genus: Petalura
This family is represented in Australia by a single genus, Petalura.

Descriptive Features:

  • smooth inner margin of labial palps
  • tibial digging hooks
  • grub-like abdomen
  • prementum subrectangular to almost square, flat
  • ligula strongly produced medially, with well developed median cleft
  • labial palps with inner margin widely rounded, lacking dentations and end hook
  • antennae 7-segmented
  • abdomen elongate, subcylindrical, without any middorsal or lateral armature
  • all species are very similar to each other
  • Total length: 45.0 - 63.0 mm

    Petalura gigantea male

    Taxonomic Checklist: Species
    Petalura gigantea Leach, 1815
    Petalura hesperia Watson, 1958
    Petalura ingentissima Tillyard, 1908
    Petalura litorea Theischinger, 1999
    Petalura pulcherrima Tillyard, 1913

    Distribution: E Qld, E NSW, SW WA

    Sensitivity Rating: none

    Functional Feeding Group: predators


    Normans Lagoon, Albury NSW

    Ecology: Adults are commonly known as 'petaltails'.
    Instream habitat: Petalura larvae are semi-aquatic and inhabit vegetated swamps, boggy seepages and stream margins in lowland, upland and rainforest regions. They are found within the mud and silt.
    Feeding ecology: Larvae are nocturnal predators feeding upon insect larvae including other dragonfly larvae. Some species with extended larval phases feed at the mouth of their burrow on terrestrial invertebrates such as spiders and cockroaches.
    Habit: Petalura larvae are called ‘pit dwellers’ because they construct burrows in the mud. Some larvae live in channels, up to one metre below the water table. There are exit holes open into the water and onto the banks.
    Life history: Mating occurs on vegetation. Females lay their eggs into decaying vegetable matter whilst resting on or near muddy ground. It is probable that larvae can survive dry summers by burrowing deeper within the mud, or that the eggs do not hatch until autumn. Adults emerge in October to early December and are present until February. Petalura species are usually univoltine but some species may take two to six years to complete a life cycle with the larval phase being the longest part of the cycle.


    Information Sources: Theischinger 2002, Clarke & Spier-Ashcroft 2003, Tillyard 1909, 1911a, Davies 1998, Silsby 2001, Theischinger & Hawking 2006
    Key to Species: Theischinger & Endersby 2009