Compiler and date details
September 2014 - abrs
July 2012 - ABRS following Theischinger & Endersby (2009)
1999 - updated by A.A. Calder, CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, ACT, Australia
1988 - W.W.K. Houston, Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra, ACT, Australia; J.A.L. Watson, CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, ACT, Australia
The Odonata, the dragonflies and damselflies, is an ancient order of insects; its only close living relatives are the Ephemeroptera or mayflies. The odonates are relatively well known taxonomically and we believe that the great majority of the Australian species have been discovered.
Major recent studies on phylogeny of the Odonata particularly by Bechly (1996), Carle (1995, 1996) and Lohmann (1996) have resulted in several changes to the classification of the order. This Catalogue follows these recent changes in classification and the checklist of Australian Odonata published in Hawking & Theischinger (1999). a comprehensive identification guide authored by Theischinger and Endersby (2009) to Australian Odonata is available online at http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/publications/09730AustOdonata.pdf. Theischinger and Endersby (2014) provide a descriptive history and identification for Australian dragonfly larvae.
The scheme proposed by Bechly (1996) for the exant species recognises only two subordinal groups: Zygoptera and Epiproctophora created from the unification of Anisoptera and Anisozygoptera (Epiophlebiidae). Theischinger and Endersby (2009) use the ordinal name Epiprocta.
An alternative scheme of the extant families championed by Trueman and Rowe can be found at the Tree-of-Life WEB site:
According to this system, that is still in general use and followed most recently by Watson et al. (1991), the order is divided into three suborders: Zygoptera (damselflies), Anisoptera (dragonflies proper) and Anisozygoptera. The last contains two living species, neither found in Australia, intermediate between the other two suborders. Although there is mostly agreement on subdivision into taxa of the family group, the rank accorded those taxa is in a state of flux and the final word no doubt must await the outcome of future more detailed phylogenetic analyses. The order of families within superfamily, of genera within families and of species within genera is alphabetical. It is not the purpose of this Catalogue to advocate or promulgate any particular classification, it merely reflects the attitudes of those currently engaged on the taxonomy of Australian Odonata. The classification adopted here, following Dijkstra et al. (2014), is as follows, but with inclusion of additional Australian families:
Adult: eyes widely separated; fore- and hindwing closely similar in shape and venation, their basal parts slender; two or more antenodal crossveins; discoidal cell a simple quadrilateral, not subdivided longitudinally, its basal side formed by posterior segment of arculus, rarely open at base in forewing; male with two pairs of anal appendages, the superior pair above the anus, the inferior pair ventral to it; female with complete ovipositor.
Larva: three caudal gills, one mid-dorsal above the anus, two lateroventral below it.
Chorismagrionidae (formerly part of Synlestidae)
Lestoideidae (variously considered under this name or Hypolestidae, here following Dijkstra et al. (2014))
Diphlebiidae (formerly Amphipterygidae)
Libellaginidae (formerly Chlorocyphidae)
Megapodagrionidae (formerly under Lestoidea, here following Dijkstra et al. (2014))
Adult: eyes separated, or meeting in mid-dorsal line; fore- and hindwing differing in venation and, usually, in shape, the hindwing broadened near base; always more than two antenodal crossveins; discoidal cell divided longitudinally into hypertriangle and triangle; male with three anal appendages, paired superiors and median inferior appendage, all above anus; female with or without complete ovipositor.
Larva: rectal tracheal gills, no external gills.
Lindeniidae (formerly part of Gomphidae)
Archipetaliidae (formerly part of Neopetaliidae)
Austropetaliidae (formerly part of Neopetaliidae)
Telephlebiidae (formerly part of Aeshnidae)
Austrocorduliidae (formerly part of Corduliidae)
Cordulephyidae (formerly part of Corduliidae)
Gomphomacromiidae (formerly part of Corduliidae)
Hemicorduliidae (formerly part of Corduliidae)
Macromiidae (formerly part of Corduliidae)
Oxygastridae (formerly part of Corduliidae)
Pseudocorduliidae (formerly part of Corduliidae)
Synthemistidae (formerly part of Corduliidae)
Urothemistidae (formerly part of Libellulidae)
Australia has an unusually rich fauna of Isostictidae, the brachytronine Aeshnidae , Corduliidae, Gomphomacromiidae and Synthemistidae. There are, in addition, four endemic family-group taxa—Hemiphlebiidae, Hypolestidae, Diphlebiidae and Cordulephyidae. On the other hand, some families well represented in other parts of the world are lacking—Platystictidae, Platycnemididae, several families of Calopterygoidea (Zygoptera) and the dragonfly family Cordulegastridae. Representation of others, notably the Libellaginidae, Calopterygidae and the Macromiidae, is meagre (Watson 1981).
Bridges (1994) indicates that approximately 619 genera and 5,309 species of Odonata are recognized world-wide. Some 110 genera and 320 species are known to occur in Australia, but in the Catalogue, we deal only with described taxa.
A complete search to confirm the status and location of all the primary types has not been possible. The problem has been even greater with secondary types. Because they have no status in nomenclature, and our coverage of them has been so incomplete (and, therefore, any citation of them so potentially misleading), we include only primary types in the Catalogue. An * placed after the type specimen identifier indicates that the identity of those types has not been confirmed by J.A.L.W.
Fabricius (1775) described the first Australian species of Odonata, "Libellula" stigmatizans and "L." oculata, from specimens in the Banks Collection gathered at the Endeavour River during Captain Cook's enforced sojourn there in 1770. Other taxonomists working in Europe made major contributions during the 19th Century, particularly Burmeister (1839) and Rambur (1842) and, in long series of papers, F. Brauer and Baron E. de Selys Longchamps. The dominant figure in taxonomic studies of Australian Odonata was R.J. Tillyard. Between 1905, shortly after he arrived in Australia, and the 1920's he published extensively on the group and firmly established our knowledge of the fauna. There was little further progress until the 1950's when F.C. Fraser produced several papers on Australian Odonata, based principally on collections made by R. Dobson in eastern Australia. This culminated in his handbook of the Australasian species (1960). During the late 1950's the emphasis swung back to odonatists resident in Australia, notably J.A.L. Watson and, later, G. Theischinger, who have produced many revisionary and other papers on Australian Odonata and are continuing to do so.
Watson (1981, 1982), Watson & Theischinger (1984) and Watson & 0'Farrell (1985) discussed the zoogeography and ecology of Australian Odonata. The fauna is highly endemic at generic and specific levels except in the families Coenagrionidae and Libellulidae, which are relatively recent arrivals from the north. Many groups appear to show Gondwanan affinities, including perhaps 40% of the species (Theischinger & Watson 1984). Although these Gondwana elements are primarily southern or montane forms, a few occur in the permanent streams of the Northern Territory and the Kimberley and northwestern regions of Western Australia.
The adults are aerial and most are strong fliers. The larvae, with rare exceptions, are aquatic, living in a wide range of freshwater habitats. Adults and larvae are carnivorous, eating live prey, commonly insects. The adults feed in flight, catching flying prey with their legs, or gleaning sedentary prey. The larvae use their unique, prehensile labium to grasp the prey and present it to the mandibles.
Metamorphosis is direct and major (Corbet 1983). The newly emerged adults disperse from the larval habitat, a short distance in the case of stream-dwellers, but farther and sometimes great distances in species that breed in still waters (Watson et al. 1982). They mature away from water, probably a week or more after emergence. Males, when mature, return to the breeding grounds and take up territories over them. When the females return, the males couple (and, commonly, mate) with them in flight. In Odonata the coupling behaviour is unique. The anal appendages of the male grasp the head/prothorax of the female, which permits the pair to fly in tandem. The female then applies her gonopore to the secondary genitalia on the ventral side of abdominal segment 2 of the male.
The female lays her eggs, sometimes in the presence of the male, generally in plant tissues or similar substrates (Zygoptera, Neopetaliidae, Petaluridae and Aeshnidae, which have well-developed ovipositors) or by dipping the end of the abdomen in the water (Gomphidae and Libelluloidea). There are commonly 10–12 larval instars, larval life occupying several months to several years.
The main predators of the larvae are insect larvae (including other Odonata), fish and birds; the main predators of the adults are birds. Except for some problems caused to beekeepers and minor benefits through predation on other insects, Odonata have little effect on human endeavours.
The Australian Odonata are unusual in that the larvae of many species inhabit cool, permanent streams. Most of these species appear to have southern affinities (Watson 1981). The dependence of an ancient and substantial component of our odonate fauna on such a scarce habitat raises concern over the conservation of freshwaters and the dragonflies they contain. Alienation and contamination both pose threats but, at least for the present, no species appear to be in any real danger (Watson 1981; 1982; Watson et al. 1982). Hawking (1997) lists the conservation status of nine species of south-eastern Australian odonates considered worthy of conservation evaluation. Hemiphlebia mirabilis Selys, perhaps our most interesting odonate and the one apparently most at risk (IUCN Invertebrate Red Data Book 1983), has been rediscovered and in abundance and security (Davies 1985; Trueman et al. 1992); this highlights how little we know about many of our Odonata. The most pressing need is the identification of the larval stages. Knowledge of the larvae is essential in ecological studies and the conservation measures that depend on them.
Many works on Odonata have general relevance to the taxonomy and biology of the Australian fauna. The references mentioned below are of this kind. They are not cited in the body of the Catalogue except where they give information of particular relevance, e.g. data on larvae, on important aspects of biology or important synonymies.
Two taxonomic papers have discussed the Australian fauna as a whole: Martin (1901) is, unfortunately, very inaccurate and poorly documented and, in the Catalogue, his records of many species and their distributions are disregarded; and Fraser (1960), although more useful, is now out of date. Watson, Theischinger and Abbey (1991) have prepared a replacement volume. Watson (1974, 1977) has summarized what is known of the distributions of Australian Odonata. There are four extensive regional treatments: Watson (1962) for southwestern Australia, Watson (1969a) for the northwest of Western Australia, Allbrook (1979) for Tasmania and Watson & Abbey (1980) for the Northern Territory. All include biological data, as do Watson (1973), Arthington & Watson (1982) and Watson et al. (1982). Watson (1962) and Allbrook (1979) include keys for larvae. Nuttall (1982) published an inadequate key to larval Zygoptera from Victoria, Hawking (1986) a useful key to all known Victorian odonate larvae and Hawking & Theischinger (1999) an illustrated key to the odonate larvae of New South Wales.
The detailed literature dealing with the taxonomy of individual families is given in the introductions to those families. Unfortunately most families of Zygoptera have not been revised comprehensively since the Selys synopses more than a century ago. Other families have received more recent attention and, in particular, those dealt with in the catalogues of the Selysian collections, namely aeshnids (Martin, 1908–1909), corduliids (Martin 1907), libellulids (Ris, 1909–1919) and the Australian gomphids (Fraser 1953). Fraser (1933) also revised the "Fissilabioidea" (Petaluridae, Archipetalidae and Austropetaliidae (as Neopetaliidae) and Cordulegastridae). The usefulness of Martin's catalogues is now limited, but the monumental Ris catalogues are still essential texts.
Ris also compiled, but did not publish, a useful catalogue and bibliography of Odonata to c. 1930, a copy of which is held by CSIRO Entomology, Canberra. Cowley (1937) lists Selys' major works, Kimmins (1966) contains Fraser's bibliography, Watson (1969b) cites the papers of Tillyard in which Australasian species were described and Geijskes & Kiauta (1984) provide Lieftinck's complete bibliography.
A recent synopsis of the extant genera of Odonata (Davies 1981) and systematic lists of extant species (Bridges 1994; Tsuda 1986) document family-group classification (see also Fraser 1957). They give valuable taxonomic and faunistic perspectives.
In addition to those mentioned above, several texts provide biological and morphological information on Odonata. In the Australian context, Tillyard (1917) is particularly useful. Corbet (1983) has given more recent perspectives, emphasising the life, rather than the functional morphology of Odonata. Chao (1953) described, in detail, the external morphology of an adult gomphid dragonfly. This terminology is a valuable standard and is followed in the Catalogue. O'Farrell (1970) summarized interpretations of adult and larval structures and, illustrated as it is with Australian examples, his summary is very useful. Watson (1981) emphasized the relationships between the ecology and biogeography of Australian Odonata and, with Watson (1982) and Watson et al. (1982), the conservation issues involved.
In addition to several papers on Australian Odonata, M.A Lieftinck published many papers on Odonata from the Indo-Malayan archipelago, some of which are highly relevant to Australia. A choice is difficult to make: perhaps those dealing with New Guinea (1932, 1933, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1942, 1949), the Lesser Sunda Islands (1953), Malaysia (1954) and New Caledonia (1975, 1976) are particularly noteworthy.
Funds to update this work were provided by the Australian Biological Resources Study.
The information on the Australian Faunal Directory site for the Odonata is derived from the Zoological Catalogue of Australia database compiled on the Platypus software program. The original work was published on 23 December 1988 as (Houston, W.W.K. & Watson, J.A.L., 1988) The database was updated by Andrew Calder, CSIRO in October 2000.
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.
Arthington, A.H. & Watson, J.A.L. 1982. Dragonflies (Odonata) of coastal sand-dune fresh waters of south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 33: 77-88
Bechly, G. 1996. Morphologische Untersuchungen am Flügelgeäder der rezenten Libellen und deren Stammgruppenvertreter (Insecta; Pterygota; Odonata) unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Phylogenetischen Systematik und des Grundplanes der Odonata. Petalura, Special volume 2: 1-402
Carle, F.L. 1995. Evolution, taxonomy, and biogeography of ancient Gondwanian libelluloides, with comments on anisopteroid evolution and phylogenetic systematics (Anisoptera: Libelluloidea). Odonatologica 24: 383-424
Fabricius, J.C. 1775. V. Vnogata. pp. 420–426 in, Systema Entomologiae, sistens Insectorum Classes, Ordines, Genera, Species, adiectis Synonymis, Locis, Descriptionibus, Observationibus. Flensburgi et Lipsiae [= Flensburg & Leipzig] : Kortius.
Fraser, F.C. 1933. A revision of the Fissilabioidea (Cordulegasteridae, Petaliidae and Petaluridae) (Order Odonata). Part II.—Petaliidae and Petaluridae and appendix to Part I. Memoirs of the Indian Museum 9: 205-260
Hawking, J. & Theischinger, G. 1999. Dragonfly larvae (Odonata). A guide to the identification of larvae of Australian families and to the identification and ecology of larvae from New South Wales. Albury : Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology Vol. 24 iv 218 pp.
Hawking, J.H. 1986. Dragonfly Larvae of the River Murray System. A preliminary guide to the identification of known final instar odonate larvae of south-eastern Australia. Technical Report No. 6. Wodonga : Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation iii 64 pp.
Houston, W.W.K. & Watson, J.A.L. 1988. Odonata. pp. 33-132 in Houston, W.W.K. (ed.). Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Ephemeroptera, Megaloptera, Odonata, Plecoptera, Trichoptera. Canberra : Australian Government Publishing Service Vol. 6 xi 316 pp.
Lieftinck, M.A. 1932. The dragonflies (Odonata) of New Guinea and neighbouring islands Part I. Descriptions of new genera and species of the families Lestidae and Agrionidae. Nova Guinea (Zoologie) 5: 485-602
Lieftinck, M.A. 1933. The dragonflies (Odonata) of New Guinea and neighbouring islands Part II. Descriptions of a new genus and species of Platycneminae (Agrionidae) and of new Libellulidae. Nova Guinea (Zoologie) 1: 1-66
Lieftinck, M.A. 1935. The dragonflies (Odonata) of New Guinea and neighbouring islands Part III. Descriptions of new and little known species of the families Megapodagrionidae, Agrionidae and Libellulidae (genera Podopteryx, Argiolestes, Papuagrion, Teinobasis, Huonia, Synthemis, and Procordulia). Nova Guinea (Zoologie) 17: 203-300
Lieftinck, M.A. 1937. The dragonflies (Odonata) of New Guinea and neighbouring islands Part IV. Descriptions of new and little known species of the families Agrionidae (sens. lat.), Libellulidae and Aeshnidae (genera Idiocnemis, Notoneura, Papuagrion, Teinobasis, Aciagrion, Bironides, Agyrtacantha, Plattycantha and Oreaeschna). Nova Guinea ns 1: 1-82
Lieftinck, M.A. 1938. The dragonflies (Odonata) of New Guinea and neighbouring islands Part V. Descriptions of new and little known species of the families Libellaginidae, Megapodagrionidae, Agrionidae (sens. lat.), and Libellulidae (genera Rhinocypha, Argiolestes, Drepanosticta, Notoneura, Palaiargia, Papuargia, Papuagrion, Teinobasis, Nannophlebia, Synthemis, and Anacordulia). Nova Guinea n.s. 2: 47-128
Lieftinck, M.A. 1942. The dragonflies (Odonata) of New Guinea and neighbouring islands Part VI. Results of the third Archbold Expedition 1938–'39 and of the Le Roux Expedition 1939 to Netherlands New Guinea (I. Anisoptera). Treubia 18: 441-608 pls 23-41
Lieftinck, M.A. 1949. The dragonflies (Odonata) of New Guinea and neighbouring islands Part VII. Results of the third Archbold Expedition 1938–1939 and of the Le Roux Expedition 1939 to Netherlands New Guinea (II. Zygoptera). Nova Guinea n.s. 5: 1-271
Lieftinck, M.A. 1954. Handlist of Malaysian Odonata. A catalogue of the dragonflies of the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java and Borneo, including the adjacent small islands. Treubia 22(Supplement): i-xiii 1-202
Lohmann, H. 1996. Das phylogenetische System der Anisoptera (Odonata). Entomologische Zeitschrift 106: 209-252, 253-266, 360-367
O'Farrell, A.F. 1970. Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies). pp. 241-261 in CSIRO (ed.). The Insects of Australia. A textbook for students and research workers. Carlton : Melbourne University Press 1029 pp.
Ris, F. 1909. Libellulinen monographisch bearbeitet. Fasc. IX–XVI. pp. 1–1278 in, Collections Zoologiques du Baron Edm. de Selys Longchamps. Brussels : Institut royal des Sciences naturelles de Belgique.
Theischinger, G. & Watson, J.A.L. 1984. Larvae of Australian Gomphomacromiinae, and their bearing on the status of the Synthemis group of genera (Odonata: Corduliidae). Australian Journal of Zoology 32: 67-95
Trueman, J.W.H., Hoye, G.A., Hawking, J.H., Watson, J.A.L. & New, T.R. 1992. Hemiphlebia mirabilis Selys: New localities in Australia and perspectives on conservation (Zygoptera: Hemiphlebiidae). Odonatologica 21(3): 367-374
Watson, J.A.L. 1962. The Dragonflies (Odonata) of South-Western Australia. A guide to the identification, ecology, distribution and affinities of larvae and adults. Handbook No. 7. Perth : Western Australian Naturalists' Club 72 pp.
Watson, J.A.L., Theischinger, G. & Abbey, H.M. 1991. The Australian Dragonflies. A guide to the identification, distributions and habitats of Australian Odonata. Canberra and Melbourne : CSIRO vii 278 pp.
Watson, J.A.L. & Abbey, H.M. 1980. Dragonflies (Odonata) from the Northern Territory. A provisional synopsis, with a key to adults, notes on the biology and distribution of species, and a section dealing with species known from the Alligator Rivers uranium province. CSIRO Aust. Div. Entomol. Rep. No. 21 44 pp.
History of changes
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