Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory




Regional Maps



Compiler and date details

May 2011 - ABRS

1999 - Updated by Andrew A. Calder, CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, Australia

1988 - Frances B. Michaelis and Cathy Yule


The Plecoptera is a fairly small order of aquatic insects, commonly called stoneflies, containing over 2,000 species. There are 191 described species in Australia, largely described from adult material. Nymphs of many Australian species are still unknown or undescribed. Eggs and nymphs of Australian species are aquatic. The nymphs have abdominal or anal gills, except for the Notonemouridae which possess no external gills. Adults are four-winged, but a few Australian species are brachypterous and apterous adults have been reported.

Plecoptera are found throughout Australia, except the Northern Territory, but their distribution is greatly restricted in Western Australia and South Australia due to the arid conditions. The genera Crypturoperla, Tasmanoperla (Austroperlidae), Tasmanocerca (Notonemouridae) and Cardioperla (Gripopterygidae) are restricted to Tasmania. Many genera in all families are confined to mainland Australia. Only the family Gripopterygidae occurs in Western Australia; Dinotoperla has the widest range. Theischinger et al. (2011) give a checklist of species, indication of their broad distributions and the results of a trial monitoring programme in the Snowy Mountains Kosciuszko National Park.

Most of the species inhabit the cooler regions of Australia, particularly the south-east, but some are found as far north as Cape York. Nymphs are usually found in cool, clean, running waters although a few species occur in lakes and one species inhabits temporary pools. A general account of the biology of stoneflies is given by Hynes (1976a).

Recent and increasing interest in catchment management and water quality has required a much greater taxonomic and biological knowledge of the stoneflies. A new generation of Australian entomologists is slowly responding to this demand.

The first Australian stonefly known was Eusthenia spectabilis, described by Gray and finely illustrated by Westwood in Griffith et al. (1832). The species is known throughout Tasmania, but the nymph cannot be distinguished from those of Eusthenia lacustris or Eusthenia reticulata (Hynes pers. comm.). The genus is endemic to Australia although the family Eustheniidae is found in Australia, New Zealand and South America. Newman (1839) described a specimen from 'Van Diemans Land' (Tasmania) as Eusthenia thalia, but would have placed it in a genus of its own had not Westwood considered it to belong to Eusthenia. This species was later transferred not only to the new genus Tasmanoperla, but also to the new family Austroperlidae (Tillyard 1921a, 1921c).

Walker (1852) described additional stonefly species from 'Van Diemans Land' and 'New Holland' (Australia). Among these were the first species from the large family Gripopterygidae, Perla beroe and Perla opposita, later placed in the genera Leptoperla and Dinotoperla, respectively (Tillyard 1921a).

The first record of the family Nemouridae from Australia was made by Tillyard (1924) when he described Spaniocerca tasmanica from Tasmania. This species was subsequently placed in the genus Austrocerca (Illies, 1975) in the family Notonemouridae (Zwick 1973).

Further species were added by McLachlan (1866), Enderlein (1909a, 1909b), Banks (1913, 1920) and Šámal (1921). The contribution of R.J. Tillyard, however, was outstanding. He erected two of the four extant families of Australian Plecoptera and recognised many species (Tillyard 1921a, 1921b, 1921c, 1923, 1924, 1926). Much later, the Australian Gripopterygidae and Nemouridae were revised (Kimmins 1951) and new species were described by Burns & Neboiss (1957), Perkins (1958), Neboiss (1959, 1962), Riek (1962, 1973), Weir (1967) and McLellan (1971). In the sixties and seventies, extended visits to Australia (including Tasmania) by the eminent plecopterists, J. Illies and P. Zwick from Germany, and H.B.N. Hynes from Canada, resulted in a deeper knowledge of taxonomy and biogeography (Illies 1968, 1969, 1975; Zwick 1979, 1980, 1981; Hynes 1974a, 1976b, 1981, 1982; Hynes & Hynes 1980).

When E.F. Riek (1970) reviewed the Australian Plecoptera, he noted 50 described and at least 34 undescribed species. Since then, revisions of all four Australian families, namely Eustheniidae (Zwick 1979), Austroperlidae (Illies 1969), Notonemouridae (Illies 1975) and Gripopterygidae (McLellan 1971), as well as a number of generic revisions and other papers (Theischinger 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984a, 1984b, 1984c, 1985, 1988, 1993; Yule 1984) have increased the number of described species to 191, all of which are endemic to Australia. All genera are endemic, except Stenoperla and Notonemoura, which also are found in New Zealand. A key to the adults of the Australian Plecoptera is provided by Theischinger & Cardale (1987) and Theischinger (1991) gives an overview of the Australian fauna.

Hynes and co-workers added an understanding of the life histories of many Australian species (Hynes 1974b; Hynes & Hynes 1975; Sephton & Hynes 1982) as well as providing the first regional keys to nymphs, e.g. Victoria (Hynes 1978) and Tasmania (Hynes 1989). Recently, Yule (1985, 1986) compared life cycles and dietary habits, and Yule & Jardel (1985) compared the eggs of some south-eastern Australian Plecoptera. Reviews of the taxonomy, distribution, ecology and life histories of the Australian Plecoptera, were given at the Ninth International Symposium on Plecoptera, Marysville, Victoria, in February 1987 (Campbell 1990).

Higher classification follows that used in the catalogues of the Plecoptera by Claassen (1940) and Illies (1966), and amended by Zwick (1973). No synonymic checklist for the Australian Plecoptera is available, but the checklist for the Tasmanian Plecoptera (Hynes, manuscript, pers. comm.) proved valuable in the preparation of the Catalogue.

The major holdings of Australian Plecoptera type material are in the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC), Division of Entomology, CSIRO, Canberra, and in the Museum Victoria, Melbourne. In 1928, R.J. Tillyard transferred his type collection from the Cawthron Institute, Nelson, New Zealand, to what is now the ANIC, when he became the first Chief of the Division. During compilation of the Catalogue, however, not all of the Tillyard types could be located in the ANIC. The reader should assume that type material is adult unless nymph is specified.

All publications containing original descriptions have been sighted. One of us (F.B.M.) was responsible for the Introduction to the Order, the families Eustheniidae, Austroperlidae and Notonemouridae, whilst the other (C.M.Y.) was initially responsible for the Gripopterygidae.


We are grateful for the information provided on type specimens by the ANIC, Canberra; Entomology Museum, University of Queensland; Museum Victoria; New Zealand Arthropod Collection, DSIR, Auckland (not visited); and G. Theischinger (not visited). We also wish to thank Dr Arturs Neboiss of the Museum Victoria for his help and encouragement.
Most of the work was done while the senior author was a Visiting Scientist at the ANIC; the co-operation of the Division of Entomology, CSIRO [now CSIRO Entomology] is gratefully acknowledged.

The updating of the Plecoptera database for the Australian Faunal Directory, derived from the Zoological Catalogue of Australia database, was supported by funding from the Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) to A.A. Calder which is gratefully acknowledged. I am also indebted to Dr Alice Wells for editorial advice. This Catalogue was updated using the taxonomic-bibliographic software package Platypus that was developed by the Australian Biological Resources Study.

The preparation and data entry for this database was conducted in CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, and use of the Organisation's resources and facilities particularly computing resources is gratefully acknowledged.

Database Notes

The information on the Australian Faunal Directory site for the Plecoptera is derived from the Zoological Catalogue of Australia database compiled on the Platypus software program. It was updated by Andrew Calder and incorporates changes made to the work published on 23 December 1988 as Michaelis, F. & Yule, C.M. (1988). Plecoptera. pp. 133-176 in Walton, D.W. & Houston, W.W.K. (eds) Ephemeroptera, Megaloptera, Odonata, Plecoptera, Trichoptera. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 6. Canberra : AGPS xi 315 pp.

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.


General References

Banks, N. 1913. Synopses and descriptions of exotic Neuroptera. Transactions of the American Entomological Society 39: 201-242 [Date published 26 Aug. 1913]

Banks, N. 1920. New neuropteroid insects. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard 64: 299-362

Burns, A.N. & Neboiss, A. 1957. Two new species of Plecoptera from Victoria. Memoirs of the National Museum of Victoria, Melbourne 21: 91-100

Campbell, I.C. (ed.) 1990. Mayflies and Stoneflies: Life Histories and Biology. Proceedings of the 5th International Ephemeroptera Conference and the 9th International Plecoptera Conference. Dordrecht : Kluwer Academic ix 366 pp.

Claassen, P.W. 1940. A Catalogue of the Plecoptera of the World. Cornell Univ., Agric. Exp. Stn Mem. 232. New York : The University, Ithaca 235 pp.

Enderlein, G. 1909a. Klassifikation der Plecopteren sowie Diagnosen neuer Gattungen und Arten. Zoologischer Anzeiger 34: 385-419

Enderlein, G. 1909b. Über die Plecopteren –` Subfamilie Antarctoperlinae und eine neue Gattung derselben von den Auckland –` Inseln. 18 Beitrag zur Kenntnis der antarktischen Fauna. Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift 1909: 679-684

Gray, G. in Griffith, E., Pidgeon, E. & Gray, G. 1832. Supplement on the Neuroptera. pp. 303–352 in Baron Cuvier The Animal Kingdom Arranged in Conformity with its Organisation. London : Whittaker, Treacher & Co. Vol. 15. [also recorded as Vol. 2 of the Class]

Hynes, H.B.N. 1974a. Comments on the taxonomy of Australian Austroperlidae and Gripopterygidae (Plecoptera). Australian Journal of Zoology Supplementary Series 29: 1-36

Hynes, H.B.N. 1974b. Observations on the adults and eggs of Australian Plecoptera. Australian Journal of Zoology Supplementary Series 29: 37-52

Hynes, H.B.N. 1976a. Biology of Plecoptera. Annual Review of Entomology 21: 135-153

Hynes, H.B.N. 1976b. Tasmanian Antarctoperlaria (Plecoptera). Australian Journal of Zoology 24: 115-143

Hynes, H.B.N. 1978. An annotated key to the nymphs of the stoneflies (Plecoptera) of the State of Victoria. Australian Society for Limnology Special Publication 2: 1-64

Hynes, H.B.N. 1981. Taxonomical notes on Australian Notonemouridae (Plecoptera) and a new species from Tasmania. Aquatic Insects 3: 147-166

Hynes, H.B.N. 1982. New and poorly known Gripopterygidae (Plecoptera) from Australia, especially Tasmania. Australian Journal of Zoology 30: 115-158

Hynes, H.B.N. 1989. Tasmanian Plecoptera. Australian Society for Limnology Special Publication 8: 1-81

Hynes, H.B.N. & Hynes, M.E. 1975. The life histories of many of the stoneflies (Plecoptera) of south-eastern mainland Australia. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 26: 113-154

Hynes, H.B.N. & Hynes, M.E. 1980. The endemism of Tasmanian stoneflies (Plecoptera). Aquatic Insects 2: 81-89

Illies, J. 1966. Katalog der rezenten Plecoptera. Das Tierreich 82: 1-632

Illies, J. 1968. The first wingless stonefly from Australia. Psyche (Cambridge) Camb. 75: 328-333

Illies, J. 1969. Revision der Plecopterenfamilie Austroperlidae. Entomologisk Tidskrift 90: 19-51

Illies, J. 1975. Notonemouridae of Australia (Plecoptera: Ins.). Internationale Revue der Gesamten Hydrobiologie und Hydrographie 60: 221-249

Kimmins, D.E. 1951. A revision of the Australian and Tasmanian Gripopterygidae and Nemouridae (Plecoptera). Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Entomology 2: 45-93

McLachlan, R. 1866. A new genus of Hemerobiidae, and a new genus of Perlidae. Transactions of the Entomological Society of London 3 5: 53-54

McLellan, I.D. 1971. A revision of Australian Gripopterygidae (Insecta: Plecoptera). Australian Journal of Zoology Supplementary Series 2: 1-79

Neboiss, A. 1959. Further discoveries on Victorian Plecoptera. Memoirs of the National Museum of Victoria, Melbourne 24: 37-44

Neboiss, A. 1962. Notes on distribution and descriptions of new species (Orders: Odonata, Plecoptera, Orthoptera, Trichoptera and Coleoptera). Memoirs of the National Museum of Victoria, Melbourne 25: 243-258

Newman, E. 1839. On the synonymy of the Perlites, together with brief characters of the old, and of a few new species. Annals and Magazine of Natural History ns 3: 32-37, 84-90 [Publication date McLellan, I.D. 1971. A revision of Australian Gripopterygidae (Insecta: Plecoptera). Australian Journal of Zoology Supplementary Series 2: 1–79 [8]]

Perkins, F.A. 1958. Australian Plecoptera. Part 1. Genus Trinotoperla Tillyard. University of Queensland Papers, Department of Entomology 1: 85-100

Riek, E.F. 1962. A new genus of Australian stoneflies (Plecoptera: Gripopterygidae). Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 87: 96-98

Riek, E.F. 1970. Plecoptera. pp. 314-322 in CSIRO (ed.). The Insects of Australia. A textbook for students and research workers. Carlton : Melbourne University Press 1029 pp.

Riek, E.F. 1973. The genera of Australian Austroperlidae (Insecta: Plecoptera). Journal of the Australian Entomological Society 12: 289-295

Šámal, J. 1921. O nkterch novch a málo známch druzick Plecopter Asijsko Austrálské oblasti. Casopis Ceskoslovenské Spolecnosti Entomologické 18: 14-24, 58-71 [French summary]

Sephton, D.H. & Hynes, H.B.N. 1982. The numbers of nymphal instars of several Australian Plecoptera. Aquatic Insects 4: 153-166

Theischinger, G. 1980. New Stoneflies (Plecoptera) from New South Wales, Australia. Aquatic Insects 2: 249-256

Theischinger, G. 1981. New and little known stoneflies from Australia (Insecta: Plecoptera). Aquatic Insects 3: 103-127

Theischinger, G. 1982. New and little known dinotoperline stoneflies from Australia (Insecta: Plecoptera: Gripopterygidae). Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 20: 489-525

Theischinger, G. 1983. The genus Stenoperla McLachlan in Australia (Insecta: Plecoptera: Eustheniidae). Australian Journal of Zoology 31: 541-556

Theischinger, G. 1984a. New and little known stoneflies (Plecoptera: Gripopterygidae) from Queensland and Victoria. Australian Entomological Magazine 10: 93-98

Theischinger, G. 1984b. The species of the genus Illiesoperla McLellan (Insecta: Plecoptera: Gripopterygidae). Australian Journal of Zoology 32: 573-602

Theischinger, G. 1984c. A revision of the Australian stonefly genus Austrocercella Illies (Insecta: Plecoptera: Notonemouridae). Australian Journal of Zoology 32: 691-718

Theischinger, G. 1985. The species of the Australian stonefly genus Riekoperla McLellan (Insecta: Plecoptera: Gripopterygidae). Australian Journal of Zoology 33: 785-830

Theischinger, G. 1988. New and little known species of stoneflies from Australia (Insecta: Plecoptera). Stapfia 17: 147-157 [Date published 30/Dec/1988]

Theischinger, G. 1991. Plecoptera (Stoneflies). pp. 311-319 in CSIRO (ed.). The Insects of Australia. A textbook for students and research workers. Melbourne : Melbourne University Press Vol. 1 xiii 542 pp.

Theischinger, G. 1993. New species of Australian stoneflies (Insecta: Plecoptera). Linzer Biologische Beiträge 25(2): 821-832

Theischinger, G., Miller, J., Tang, C., Krogh, M. & Pope, E. 2011. The benefits of using both adult and larval stoneflies (Plecoptera) in environmental surveys: an example from New South Wales with a summary of the Australian stonefly fauna. Australian Entomologist 38(1): 1-20 [includes a checklist of species and indication of their broad distributions]

Theischinger, G. & Cardale, J.C. 1987. An illustrated guide to the adults of the Australian stoneflies (Plecoptera). CSIRO Australia. Division of Entomology Technical Paper 26: 1-83

Tillyard, R.J. 1921a. A new classification of the order Perlaria. Canadian Entomologist 53: 35-43

Tillyard, R.J. 1921b. The wing venation of the Leptoperlidae (Order Perlaria), with description of a new species of the genus Dinotoperla, from Australia. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 45: 270-274

Tillyard, R.J. 1921c. Revision of the family Eustheniidae (Order Perlaria), with descriptions of new genera. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 46: 221-236

Tillyard, R.J. 1923. The stone-flies of New Zealand (Order Perlaria), with descriptions of new genera and species. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 54: 197-217

Tillyard, R.J. 1924. New genera and species of Australian stoneflies (Order Perlaria). Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 48: 192-195

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

Walker, F. 1852. Catalogue of the Specimens of Neuropterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum. Part 1 (Phryganides-Perlides). London : British Museum 192 pp.

Weir, T.A. 1967. A new genus of Notonemourinae (Plecoptera: Capniidae) from Australia. Journal of the Australian Entomological Society 6: 65-68

Yule, C. 1984. Taxonomic observations on Dinotoperla (Plecoptera: Gripopterygidae) from south-eastern Australia. Aquatic Insects 6: 201-216

Yule, C. 1985. Comparative study of the life cycles of six species of Dinotoperla (Plecoptera: Gripopterygidae) in Victoria. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 36: 717-735

Yule, C. 1986. A comparison of the dietary habits of six species of Dinotoperla (Plecoptera: Gripopterygidae) in Victoria, Australia. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 37: 121-127

Yule, C. & Jardel, J.-P. 1985. Observations on the eggs of species of Dinotoperla (Plecoptera: Gripopterygidae). Aquatic Insects 7: 77-85

Zwick, P. 1973. Insecta: Plecoptera. Phylogenetisches System und Katalog. Das Tierreich 94: i-xxxii 1-465

Zwick, P. 1979. Revision of the stonefly family Eustheniidae (Plecoptera) with emphasis on the fauna of the Australian region. Aquatic Insects 1: 17-50

Zwick, P. 1980. Plecoptera (Steinfliegen). Handbuch der Zoologie. Berlin : Walter de Gruyter Vol. 4(2) 2/7: Lief. 26. 115 pp.

Zwick, P. 1981. Plecoptera. pp. 1171-1182 in Keast, A. (ed.). Ecological Biogeography of Australia. The Hague : Junk Vol. 2.


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)
11-May-2011 11-May-2011 MODIFIED
10-May-2011 MODIFIED