learn more about the groups (genera) of Petaltails, click on the links at the right
or in the menu.
The Petaltails are large in size with clear wings, shaped much like Darners. But
the eyes are widely separated and the stigmas are long and narrow. The two
species that exist today in North America have a muted gray or black thorax and
an abdomen with whitish markings. Petaltails inhabit alpine meadows, water seeps
with moss covered rocks or spring fed bogs.
The Petaluridae date back to the prehistoric era. It is believed that Petaltails
have existed on earth for more than three hundred million years, and are the most
ancient of all flying insects.
Juveniles can be observed perched on tree trunks, while the adult males perch on
almost anything in their territory, including observers. Males are often seen
patrolling from sunrise to sunset defending their territories against other dragonflies.
Female Petaltails have a well developed blade-like ovipositor with an upward
tilt. They oviposit by cutting through vegetation and inserting eggs among
dense grasses, roots, mud and decaying vegetative matter above the surface
of the water.
Petaltail larvae are usually sedentary and wait in the muck in seepage waters for
prey to come their way. They are short with twisted legs. Their antennae
are shorter than their head. The larva of a petaltail is unlike that of any
other dragonfly larvae. It is amphibious. It digs an L-shaped burrow
in the mud which is kept saturated by the trickling of spring water with the
lower horizontal part of the burrow pointing upstream. Dozens of burrows can
be concentrated in a very small area. The larvae are generally nocturnal.
Thery can breath air for long periods and often forage well out of their water-filled
burrow. When ready to emerge, unlike other dragonflies, the Petaltail has
been known to climb well up into a tree to transform itself into an adult.