Petaluridae - Tachopteryx, Uhler in Selys, 1859
Tachopteryxthoreyi (Hagen, in Selys,1858) - GrayPetaltail

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Page last updated: 15July 1998

Notes onPetaluridae and Tachopteryx thoreyiin Michigan

Petaluridae is the smallest family ofAnisoptera, with five genera and 10 species distributed about thePacific rim (North America - Tanypteryx; South America- Phenes;Japan - Tanypteryx ; New Zealand - Uropetala; Australia -Petalura)and Eastern North America (Tachopteryx). Both larvaeand adults contain morphological characters consideredphylogenetically primitive. Larvae are distinctive for their thick,hairy antennal segments, thick and slightly concave prementum, palpallobes with a large spur at the base of the movable hook, andconstruction by larvae of burrows in bogs and wetland seepages.Although this burrowing habit in mud or peat appears to be shared bymost members of the family (Williamson1932, Svihla 1959, Taketo 1971, Rowe1987), Dunkle (1981) was unable to locate such burrows for Tachopteryx thoreyi larvaein permanent spring-fed hillside seeps near Gainesville, Florida.Here larvae were "found...between or under wet leaves near the uphilledges of seeps. They were usually in a thin slowly flowing layer ofwater, but some were above the water surface. A few were indepressions in the soil, but none were in burrows..." The forestedseeps described by Dunkle probably represents the most likely habitatfor larvae to be found in Michigan.

Larvae may be considered semiterrestrial (theirrectal chambers can also utilize air), often lying at the edges oftheir burrows above water in wait for prey. The lower part of theburrow is usually submerged in well-oxygenated water, the upperregion - often an excavated trough or leading up to vegetation -exposed to muck or air. Extended periods of exposure - from hours toeven weeks - of larvae to air has been observed for Tanypteryx hageni(Svihla1959), Tanypteryx pryeri(Taketo1971) and Uropetela spp.(Rowe1987). Indeed, these authors considerthese larvae as air-breathers, with Rowe suggesting the rectalchamber in the abdomen functioning as a "reverse aqualung." Foragingactivity (lie-in-wait ambushing) is mostly nocturnal, althoughspecimens in captivity have been observed in this position duringdaylight hours (Rowe1987). Apparently terrestrialarthropods are the principal prey; feeding behavior has been noted byvarious authors (Meyer and Clement1978, Dunkle 1981, Rowe1987 ).

Map 1: County distribution ofTachopteryxthoreyi in Michigan
Click on map for a larger image

Tachopteryx thoreyi is represented in Michigan only by two closely-groupedrecords in the extreme southwestern part of the state (Map 1).Probably due to the difficulty in finding the correct habitat andindividual larvae themselves, larval specimens have not yet beencollected from these sites. (The population appears, however, to bestable). This species is more widely distributed in the eastern andsouthern part of the USA. The rarity of records in Michigan probablyis an artifact of its geographical range; until more information isknown about this species from these sites, this dragonfly deservesthe specialconcern status in Michigan. Larvae probablyrequire at least 3 or more years before maturity, based oninformation from the literature mentioned above.

Links on the ecology and biology of larvalTachopteryx and related species:
Briefhabitat notes from Houston, Texas area>>
Informationon Tanypteryx hageni (Selys)>>
USFWSSpotted Owl report on potential logging effects on Tanypteryx hagenihabitat>>

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Dunkle, S. W. 1981.The ecology and behavior of Tachopteryxthoreyi (Hagen) (Anisoptera:Petaluridae). Odonatologica10:189-199.

Meyer, R. P.,and S. L. Clement. 1978. Studies on the biology of Tanypteryx hageni inCalifornia. Annals of the EntomologicalSociety of America71(5):667-669.

Rowe, R. 1987. TheDragonflies of New Zealand. Auckland University Press, New Zealand.260 pp.

Selys-Longchamps, M.E. de. 1858. Monographie des Gomphines. Mémoires de la Société Royale desSciences de Liége 9:1-460, 23pls.

Svihla, A. 1959. Thelife history of Tanyopteryxhageni Selys (Odonata). Transactions of the American Entomological Society85:219-232.

Taketo, A. 1971.Studies on the life-history of Tanypteryx pryeri Selys(Odonata, Petaluridae). II. Habitat and habit of the nymph.Kontyu39:299-310.

Williamson, E. B.1932. Dragonflies collected in Missouri. Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology, Universityof Michigan 247. 40 pp.

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