Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory




Regional Maps



Compiler and date details

31 December 1997 - T.R. New, Department of Zoology, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia


Zoraptera are one of the smallest orders of exopterygote insects, with only about 30 species described. They exhibit a mixture of blattoid and hemipteroid features, and in consequence their affinities are obscure. Relationships with blattoid orders or with Psocoptera have been postulated, with present opinion favouring the former.

Until recently, all living species were placed in a single genus, Zorotypus Silvestri (in the family Zorotypidae), but Kukalov√°-Peck & Peck (1993) erected six new genera for New World species on features of wing venation. Zoraptera occur as apterous or alate individuals, and winged individuals are frequently dealate, as the wings become detached easily. Wing venation is unknown for most Old World species, which have been described from apterous or dealate specimens, and all of those were retained in Zorotypus as a 'holding genus' until their affinities can be clarified. Discussion and background on the history of the order is included also in accounts by Gurney (1938), New (1978) and Smithers (1991).

Zoraptera are small, elongate insects, usually about 3 mm long. The head is hypognathous with chewing mouthparts and 9-segmented moniliform antennae. The thorax is well developed and the tarsi are 2-segmented; the hind femur is usually expanded and may bear posterior spines whose arrangement has taxonomic value. Wings are narrow with greatly reduced venation and, as in Isoptera, are shed by means of a basal fracture. Male genitalia are complex but female genitalia are reduced and provide few taxonomic characters, and both sexes have short, 1-segmented cerci.

The only general common name is simply 'zorapterans'. They have been found under bark, in rotten wood and decaying sawdust, termite nests and in Tullgren funnel extractions of leaf litter. They are sometimes gregarious. Eggs are simple and ovoid. Nymphs are dimorphic with some developing into winged adults with ocelli and small compound eyes and others into paler, apterous, blind adults. Little is known of the biology or feeding habits of most species, and most information is derived from studies on the widespread North American Zorotypus hubbardi Caudell. Indeed, many species of Zoraptera are known from very few individuals and by only one sex.

Although recorded from the Nearctic, Neotropical, Afrotropical, Oriental and Pacific regions, Zoraptera have not yet been found on the Australian mainland. They are included here on the basis of a single species, discovered recently on Christmas Island, which is closely related to several Indonesian species.

Database Notes

The information on the Australian Faunal Directory site for the Zoraptera is derived from the Zoological Catalogue of Australia database compiled on the Platypus software program. It incorporates changes made to the work published on 2 September 1998 as (New, T.R., 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.


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)
12-Feb-2010 (import)