Libellula Linnaeus, 1758 - Skimmers
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Michigan List of Libellula species



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Page last updated:01/27/2017

Notes on the Michigan Species of Libellula

The genus Libellula is a common, widespread, and diverse genus of principally Holarctic dragonflies. Twenty-one species are known from North America north of Mexico, with eight species (not including Ladona julia and Plathemis lydia, see below) occuring in Michigan.

The traditional placement of Ladona and Plathemis within Libellula has not been universally accepted. Many authors (e.g., Bennefield 1965, Borror 1945, Walker and Corbet 1975, Garrison 1991) retain the classification of Ris (1910) and Kennedy (1922) in delegating Ladona and Plathemis as subgenera of Libellula, based principally upon the similarity of adult features of the former two to a Palaearctic Libellula. Others (e.g., Carle 1978, May 1992; Schmidt 1987; Westfall and Tennennsen 1996), however, follow Needham's 1897 generic ranking of Ladona and Plathemis. Among other reasons, there are distinct differences in larval morphology (premental setae and outline of, and position of setae within, the apical margin of prementum, crenations on medium lobe of prementum) which clearly distinguish these three taxa. Knopf (1977) separates the three genera based upon electrophoretic data, although that study is limited by a small sample size. A recent study by Ralph Charlton and Srinivas Kambhampati has attempted to resolve the issue by examining mitochondrial 16S ribosomal RNA gene, and applying a cladistic analysis. Based on the examination of ~415 bp DNA sequences from 23 taxa, the authors argue that "Ladona and Plathemis are monophyletic lineages distinct from Libellula s. str. with a sister group relationship between Libellula and Ladona. We therefore propose that Ladona and Plathemis be considered genera within Libellulidae but distinct from Libellula" (Charlton and Kambhampati, ESA abstract, 1997). I (EB) believe the evidence for separation is strong, hence Ladona and Plathemis are treated apart from Libellula, and are keyed out separately in the genus key to Libellulidae.

All eight species of Libellula in Michigan can be found in ponds, small lakes or bays, and quiet river margins. L. pulchella appears to have a preference well-buffered waters in calcareous soils, and avoids peaty waters (Walker and Corbet 1975). L. quadrimaculata, on the other hand, appears to prefer the peaty waters of marshes and bogs. L. semifasciata also is found in forested brooks and ponds, marshy bays and seepage ditches. L. vibrans has recently (Craves 2006) been added to our state list, with adults being netted in southeastern Michigan. In 2013, Libellula auripennis finally appeared in SE Michigan (Nirschl 2013). We have not yet included it in the key, as it is doubtful that it is a resident species.

Other links with information on the biology or ecology of larval Libellula:
Brief habitat notes on Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Libellula >>

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Michigan Species List

Key to the Mature Larve of Michigan Libellula

1a. Lateral setae less than 7 - 2

1b. Lateral setae 7 or more - 4

2a(1a). Epiproct distinctly decurved to the tip; premental setae 8-9 - 3

2b. Epiproct not as above, being straight or only slightly decurved apically; premental setae 10-11; no middorsal hook on Ab3 - L. vibrans

3a.(2a). Mature larvae not greater than 22 mm in length; cerci about 0.5x length of paraprocts - L. cyanea

3b. Mature larvae about 26 mm in length; cerco about 0.33x length of paraprocts - L. incesta
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4a.(1b). Palpal setae 8 or 9 (picture); dorsal hook absent on abdominal segment 8 - L. pulchella

4b. Palpal setae 7 or 8 (picture); dorsal hook present on abdominal segment 8 - 5
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5a.(4b). No dorsal hook on abdominal segment 3 - L. luctuosa

5b. Dorsal hook present on abdominal segment 3 - 5
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6a.(5b). Premental setae (on each side) 10-14 (picture); largest dorsal hook on abdominal segments 5, 6 or 7 (picture); cerci about 0.7x as long as paraprocts (picture) - L. quadrimaculata

6b. Premental setae (on each side) 16 (picture); largest dorsal hook on abdominal segment 8 (picture); cerci about 0.5x as long as paraprocts (picture) - L. semifasciata
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Bennefield, B. L. 1965. A taxonomic study of the subgenus Ladona (Odonata: Libellulidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 45:361-396.

Borror, D. J. 1945. A key to the New World genera of Libellulidae (Odonata).Annals of the Entomological Society of America 38:168-194.

Burmeister, H. 1839. handbuch der Entomologie. Vol 2. Enslin: Berlin. pp. 397-1050.

Carle, F. L. 1978. Progress on taxonomic and nomenclatural problems of Virginia Anisoptera: a reply to Dennis R. Paulson. Selysia 8(1):13-14.

Craves, J. A. 2006. First Michigan specimens of [Great Blue Skimmer] Libellula vibrans Fabricius (Odonata: Libellulidae (pdf). Great Lakes Entomologist 39: 91-93.

Craves, J. A.. and D. S. O’Brien. 2013. The Odonata of Wayne County, Michigan: Inspiration for renewed monitoring of urban areasNortheastern Naturalist 20:341-362.

Drury, D. 1773. Illustrations of natural history. Vol. 2. White: London. 90 pp.

Fabricius, J. C. 1775. Systema entomologiae. Libraria Kortii: Flensburg & Leipzig. 424 pp.

Garrison, R. W. 1991. A synonymic list of the New World Odonata. Argia 3(2):1-30.

Hagen, H. A. 1861. Synopsis of the Neuroptera of North America, with a list of the South American species. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 4:1-347.

Kennedy, C. H. 1922. The morphology of the penis in the genus Libellula (Odonata).Entomological News 33:33-40 + 2 pls.

Knopf, K. W. 1977. Protein variation in Gomphus (Odonata: Gomphidae). Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Floridae, Gainesville. vi + 107 pp.

Linne, C. 1758. Systema naturae. Editio decima reformata. Holmiae. 543 pp.

May, M. L. 1992. Morphological and ecological differences among species ofLadona (Anisoptera: Libellulidae). Bulletin of American Odonaology 1(3):51-56.

Needham, J. G. 1897a. Libellula deplanta of Rambur. Canadian Entomologist 29:144-146.

Nirschl, R. 2013. First record for Libellula auripennis (Golden-winged Skimmer) in Michigan. Argia 25(3):18

Ris, F. 1910. Collections zoologiques du Baron Edm. de Selys Longechamps. Catalogue systematique et descriptif. Fascimile XI. Libellulinen 3. 1:245-384 + 1 pl.

Schmidt, E. 1987. Generic reclassification of some Westpalaearctic Odonata taxa in view of their Nearctic affinities (Anisoptera: Gomphidae, Libellulidae).Advances in Odonatology 3:135-145.

Walker, E. M. and J. S. Corbet. 1975. The Odonata of Canada and Alaska, Vol. 3. University of Toronto Press: Toronto.

Westfall, M. J., Jr. and K. J. Tennessen. 1996. Odonata, pp. 164-211. In Merritt, R. W. and K. W. Cummins (eds.), An Introduction to the Aquatic Insects of North America, 3rd Ed. Kendell/ Hunt Publishing Company: Dubuque, Iowa.

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