Key to Families of Australian Aquatic Plecoptera Larvae

This is a small order of aquatic insects comprising about 2000 species worldwide.  There are 15 recognised families but only four occur in Australia.  Of the 26 Australian genera 24 are endemic and 2 are shared with New Zealand, but at species level all 196 Australian species are endemic.  Stoneflies occur in eastern Australia from Tasmania to Cape York, and in South Australia and southern Western Australia, but not in central or north-western parts of the country.

Adult stoneflies are soft-bodied insects with long antennae, a moderately wide head, three free thoracic segments, and a cylindrical, parallel-sided abdomen terminating in two prominent cerci (and, in males, varied copulatory apparatus).  Typical adult stoneflies have two pairs of membranous wings each with numerous crossveins, the hindwing broader than the fore, but in some species the wings are reduced and in others they are altogether absent.

This key deals only with the larvae, and of all the keys in this series, is the simplest and least demanding.  Identification of larval stoneflies to family level can be based entirely on the configuration of the abdominal gills.  Eustheniidae carry lateral gills on abdominal segments 1-5 or 1-6.  Gripopterygidae carry a tuft of fine gill filaments on the terminal segment.  Austroperlidae carry 3-5 fingerlike gills on the terminal segment, with further fingerlike gills on the cerci or anal plate in some species.  Notonemouridae have no external gills at all.  Additional characters assist in identifying specimens to family when the gills are small and hidden under sternite 10.

Posted By: Site Admin Last Updated: Aug 9, 2012 Views: 5501
Key Author(s): CSIRO Entomology Key Version: 1.1
Antarctic Marine Dinoflagellates

Antarctic Marine Dinoflagellates

Posted By: Site Admin Last Updated: Aug 24, 2016 Views: 5495
Key Author(s): Australian Antarctic Division
Chrysophyte Key

Chrysophyte Key

Posted By: Site Admin Last Updated: Aug 24, 2016 Views: 5494
Key Author(s): Australian Antarctic Division Key Version: 1.0
Key to Families of Australian Aquatic Molluscs


This large phylum is divided into several classes of which only the Bivalvia (bivalved molluscs) and Gastropoda (snails and slugs) are found in inland waters.


Bivalved molluscs occur commonly in marine and estuarine environments.  Four families are known from Australian inland waters.  Identification to Bivalvia is relatively easy based on the bi-valved shell which covers the whole body, but care should be taken, especially with small specimens, to check the animal is not a crustacean of class Conchostraca (clam shrimp) Ostracoda (mussel-shrimp or seed-shrimp), or Cladocera (water flea).  These animals have a bi-valved carapace and may superficially resemble bivalved molluscs, but within the carapace is a shrimp-like body with several pairs of jointed legs.

The four freshwater bivalve families are:

1 Hyriidae (Freshwater mussels)

A family restricted to South America and Australasia.  Found throughout mainland Australia and central-north Tasmania, absent from southern Tasmania.  Some species are endemic to particular catchments whilst others are cosmopolitan.  The first larval stage is the minute, bivalved glochidium, ectoparasitic on the gills, fins, or general body surface of various fish.

2 Corbiculidae (Orb-shell mussels)

Found in Asia, Australia and Oceania, with isolated introductions in other parts of the world.  A tropical to subtropical group.  There are two distinct species groups in Australia.  The first (genera Batissa and Polymesoda) inhabit fresh and estuarine coastal streams of northern Australia, and are closely related to forms found in south-east Asia.  The second (genus Corbicula, endemic subgenus Corbiculina) are found throughout Australia except for Tasmania and the southern part of Western Australia.

3 Sphaeriidae (Pea shell mussels, pea shells, fingernail clams)

A little studied but cosmopolitan family of small bivalves.  Previously, many names were based on minute differences in the shell and on geographic distribution.  Some species are widespread throughout Australia but others are confined to small regions or in some cases to a single body of water.

4 Mytilidae (Mussels)

The cosmopolitan family which includes the marine mussels.  Several species are estuarine and some may be found in near-fresh water, but never entirely away from marine influence.

Identification to family can be based on the shell.  The Hydriidae and Mytilidae are elongate mussels with the beak of the shell at one end.  Corbiculidae and Sphaeriidae are sub-circular.  Hydriid larvae (glochidium larvae), parasitic on freshwater fish, are keyed separately in this key.


The aquatic gastropod families divide into two subclasses, the gill-breathing Prosobranchia are related to marine snails, the lung-breathing (or secondarily gilled) Pulmonata are related to land snails.  Eleven prosobranch families and nine pulmonate families are recorded from Australian inland waters.

Almost all species are shelled and recognisably snail-like, but one family (Onchidiidae) of marine, air-breathing slugs extends into estuaries and damp terrestrial situations near the sea.

Identification to class Gastropoda is relatively easy based on the snail-like shell and/or the presence of a pulmonate lung in the mantle cavity.  Larvae of Helicopsychidae, a family of caddis-fly (Insecta: Trichoptera) construct a helical case which resembles a snail shell, and could be mistaken for molluscs.  The trichopteran case is composed of sand grains and the animal inside is a typical insect larva with segmented body and three pairs of legs.

The identification of gastropods to family level can be difficult because the families are defined on internal anatomical structures.  There are few readily observable characters, other than those of the shell, but shells vary as much within as between families.  Adult whole animals can be identified using a combination of shell (and operculum) plus external body characters, but juveniles and shells alone are not always identifiable to the family level.

Character systems useful for identifying gastropod families include:

1   Shell coiling (dextral, sinistral, flat, or not-coiled)

2   Operculum presence/absence

3   Shell shape (spired, globose, turbinate, etc.) and spire height

4   Shell patterning (ridges, striations, colour patterns, etc.)

5   Tentacle and eye position

Some species will key easily to family level, but others may be difficult.

Posted By: Site Admin Last Updated: Aug 8, 2012 Views: 5462
Key Author(s): CSIRO Entomology Key Version: 1.1
Key to Orders of Trichomycetes

Trichomycetes are a cosmopolitan group of fungi and protists that grow obligately in the guts of insects, crustaceans, and millipedes that live in freshwater, marine, or terrestrial habitats. The taxonomy of these organisms is based primarily on morphology of the vegetative thallus; spore type and dimensions; host; and habitat.

Posted By: Site Admin Last Updated: Jul 27, 2016 Views: 5443
Key Author(s): R.W. Lichtwardt, University of Kansas, Lawrence KS USA and D.B. Strongman, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax NS Canada Key Version: 1.0
Tortricids of Agricultural Importance

The family Tortricidae contains approximately 9,800 species, many of which are considered serious pests.

Posted By: Site Admin Last Updated: Oct 30, 2013 Views: 5443
Key Author(s): Todd M. Gilligan and Marc E. Epstein Key Publisher: APHIS Key Version: 1.0
Key to Families of Australian Aquatic Ephemeroptera Larvae

An order of palaeopterous insects.  Nymphs of all species are aquatic, and occur in relatively unpolluted, standing and running freshwaters.  The adults are short-lived ( a few minutes to several days), take no food, and do not move far from water.  Adults are unique amongst living insects in undergoing a final moult (subimago to imago) after the wings become functional.  The name Ephemeroptera refers to the short lifespan of the adult.

There are 23 recognised families in the order but only 9 families (84 described species) occur in Australia.  This key covers only nymphs and only the Australian taxa.

Identification of later-instar nymphs to family level should be relatively straightforward based on external morphological characters.  Younger instars cannot always be allocated reliably to family.

Posted By: Site Admin Last Updated: Aug 8, 2012 Views: 5406
Key Author(s): CSIRO Entomology Key Version: 1.1
Queensland Pasture Selection Tool

A pasture selection tool.

Posted By: Site Admin Last Updated: Nov 10, 2008 Views: 5363
Key Author(s): Stuart Brown Key Publisher: CSIRO Key Version: 1.0
Lasiocnemus key Dikow 2007

Key to species of Lasiocnemus (Insecta: Diptera: Asilidae) based on the taxonomic revision by Dikow 2007 (doi:

Posted By: Site Admin Last Updated: Apr 22, 2015 Views: 5344
Key Author(s): Torsten Dikow
Key to Reticulitermes spp. of Georgia

 Identify the all endemic species of Reticulitermes spp. found in Georgia, USA

Posted By: Site Admin Last Updated: Jan 10, 2012 Views: 5308
Key Author(s): Su Yee Key Version: 1.0
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