Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory




Regional Maps



Compiler and date details

1998 - Updated by S. Shattuck, CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

1 December 1996 - K.J. Lambkin, Queensland Museum, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


The Mecoptera, commonly known as scorpion-flies, comprise approximately 500 known extant species and is one of the smaller orders of insects. Despite its small size, this order has attracted considerable interest because of its long and diverse fossil record and its assumed 'primitive' status within the Holometabola. The common name for mecopterans, scorpion-flies, derives from a peculiar habit of male panorpids of curving their bulbous genital segment anterodorsally like a scorpion's sting.

The classification and family relationships of the Mecoptera have been the subject of detailed examination by Willmann (1987, 1989) whose classification is followed in the Catalogue (Lambkin 1996). Willmann recognised nine families: Nannochoristidae (Australia, New Zealand, South America), Bittacidae (cosmopolitan), Boreidae (Holarctic), Meropeidae (North America, Australia), Eomeropidae (South America), Apteropanorpidae (Tasmania), Choristidae (Australia), Panorpodidae (USA, Japan, Korea), Panorpidae (Holarctic, Oriental Region). The Panorpidae and Bittacidae are the largest families and account for over 400 of the order's species.

The most recent general account of the order is that of Kaltenbach (1978). Penny & Byers (1979) have provided a checklist of extant species, Willmann (1978) has catalogued the extensive fossil record, Schlee & Schlee (1976) have provided a comprehensive bibliography, and Byers & Thornhill (1983) reviewed all aspects of the order's biology. Esben-Petersen's classic 1921 monograph, which is the only species level treatment of the world fauna, remains a useful starting point for revisionary studies of lesser known faunas.

The Australian mecopteran fauna comprises 30 described species in five families. Riek monographed the Australian fauna in 1954, and Smithers (1987) provided a synopsis including a key to species and bibliographic lists for each species. Riek (1970) and Byers (1991) have provided concise summaries, and the account given by Tillyard in his classic 1926 text is still of value.


I express my thanks to Alice Wells for her constructive help in the compilation of this work, to Josephine Cardale (CSIRO Division of Entomology, Canberra) for drawing my attention to the homonymy of Neochorista Riek, and to Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) for financial support.

Database Notes

The information on the Australian Faunal Directory site for the Mecoptera is derived from the Zoological Catalogue of Australia database compiled on the Platypus software program. The original work was published on 15 August 1996 as (Lambkin, K.J., 1996) The database was updated by S. Schattuck, CSIRO Entomology, in December 1998.

Limital Area

Distribution data in the Directory is by political and geographic region descriptors and serves as a guide to the distribution of a taxon. For details of a taxon's distribution, the reader should consult the cited references (if any) at genus and species levels.

Australia is defined as including Lord Howe Is., Norfolk Is., Cocos (Keeling) Ils, Christmas Is., Ashmore and Cartier Ils, Macquarie Is., Australian Antarctic Territory, Heard and McDonald Ils, and the waters associated with these land areas of Australian political responsibility. Political areas include the adjacent waters.

Terrestrial geographical terms are based on the drainage systems of continental Australia, while marine terms are self explanatory except as follows: the boundary between the coastal and oceanic zones is the 200 m contour; the Arafura Sea extends from Cape York to 124 DEG E; and the boundary between the Tasman and Coral Seas is considered to be the latitude of Fraser Island, also regarded as the southern terminus of the Great Barrier Reef.

Distribution records, if any, outside of these areas are listed as extralimital. The distribution descriptors for each species are collated to genus level. Users are advised that extralimital distribution for some taxa may not be complete.



P. Bates edited the transferred version of this database on 25 March 1998; S. Shattuck updated the text on 26 November 1998.


General References

Byers, G.W. 1991. Mecoptera. pp. 696-704 in CSIRO (ed.). The Insects of Australia. A textbook for students and research workers. Melbourne : Melbourne University Press Vol. 2 pp. 543-1137.

Byers, G.W. & Thornhill, R. 1983. Biology of the Mecoptera. Annual Review of Entomology 28: 203-228

Esben-Petersen, P. 1921. Mecoptera. Monographic revision. Collections Zoologiques du Baron Edm. de Selys Longchamps 5(2): 1-172

Kaltenbach, A. 1978. Mecoptera (Schnabelhafte, Schnabelfliegen). Handbuch der Zoologie, Berlin IV Arthropoda: Insecta 25: 1-111

Lambkin, K.J. 1996. Mecoptera. pp. 123-181 in Wells, A. (ed.). Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 28. Neuroptera, Strepsiptera, Mecoptera, Siphonaptera. Melbourne : CSIRO Publishing, Australia xiii 230 pp. [Date published 15 August 1996]

Palmer, C.M. 2010. Diversity of feeding strategies in adult Mecoptera. Terrestrial Arthropod Reviews 3(2): 111-128

Penny, N.D. & Byers, G.W. 1979. A check-list of the Mecoptera of the world. Acta Amazonica 9: 365-388

Riek, E.F. 1954. The Australian Mecoptera or scorpion-flies. Australian Journal of Zoology 2: 143-168

Riek, E.F. 1970. Mecoptera. pp. 636-646 in CSIRO (ed.). The Insects of Australia. A textbook for students and research workers. Carlton : Melbourne University Press 1029 pp.

Schlee, H.B. & Schlee, D. 1976. Bibliographie der rezenten und fossilen Mecoptera (Insecta). Stuttgarter Beitr├Ąge zur Naturkunde. Serie A (Biologie) 282: 1-76

Smithers, C.N. 1987. Synopsis of Australian scorpionflies (Mecoptera). General and Applied Entomology 19: 31-44

Tillyard, R.J. 1926. The Insects of Australia and New Zealand. Sydney : Angus and Robertson xi 560 pp.

Willmann, R. 1987. The phylogenetic system of the Mecoptera. Systematic Entomology 12: 519-524

Willmann, R. 1989. Evolution und phylogenetisches System der Mecoptera (Insecta: Holometabola). Abhandlungen der Senckenbergischen Naturforschenden Gesellschaft 544: 1-153


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
13-Aug-2013 MODIFIED