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The Petaluridae are a small family of very large to enormous dragonflies, distribution New Zealand, South America, North America, Japan, and Australia. Australia has five species, half the total for the family, in one genus, Petalura. P. ingentissima from Queensland, with a wingspan more than 160 mm., is one of the world's biggest dragonflies. P. gigantea, although more common, is listed as a threatened species in New South Wales.

The compound eyes of Petalura are widely separated and the insect is heavy and robust. All species are brown to black with yellow markings. The wings are clear with a very long pterostigma. Males are immediately identifiable by their broad, leaf-like terminal appendages, and females have a short, curved ovipositor. The thickset larvae are only semi-aquatic. They make permanent burrows in swamps and beside streams and their ecology is much like that of a trapdoor spider: waiting at the entrance to their burrow for passing terrestrial insects or hunting on the surface at night or in cloudy weather. Larvae may live for several years. Adults emerge in late spring or early summer and fly until early autumn (or its equivalent in tropical climates).

Petalura hesperia larvae



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