Overview

Brief Summary

Plecoptera are an order of insects, commonly known as stoneflies. There are some 3,500 described species worldwide (Fochetti & Tierno de Figueroa 2008), with new species still being discovered. Stoneflies are found worldwide, except Antarctica.  Stoneflies are believed to be one of the most primitive groups of Neoptera, with close relatives identified from the Carboniferous and Lower Permian geological periods, while true stoneflies are known from fossils only a bit younger. The modern diversity however apparently is of Mesozoic origin (Zwick 2000).

Plecoptera are found in both the Southern and Northern hemispheres, and the populations are quite distinct although the evolutionary evidence suggests that species may have crossed the equator on a number of occasions before once again becoming geographically isolated (Hynes 1993, Zwick 2000).

The nymphs are aquatic and live in the benthic zone of well-oxygenated lakes and streams. A few species found in New Zealand and nearby islands have terrestrial nymphs, but even these inhabit only very moist environments. The nymphs physically resemble wingless adults, but often have external gills, which may be present on almost any part of the body. In addition, they can also respire through the general body surface, and some even lack gills altogether. Most species are herbivorous as nymphs, feeding on submerged leaves and benthic algae, but many are hunters of other aquatic arthropods (Hoell et al. 1998).  

All species of Plecoptera are intolerant of water pollution and their presence in a stream or still water is usually an indicator of good or excellent water quality.

The insects remain in the nymphal form for one to four years, depending on species, and undergo anything from 12 to 33 molts before emerging and becoming terrestrial as adults. The adults generally only survive for a few weeks, and emerge only during specific times of the year. Some do not feed at all, but those that do are herbivorous (Hoell et al. 1998).

  • Hoell, H.V., Doyen, J.T. & Purcell, A.H. (1998). Introduction to Insect Biology and Diversity, 2nd ed.. Oxford University Press. pp. 383–386. ISBN 0-19-510033-6.
  • Fochetti, R. & J. M. Tierno de Figueroa (2008). Global diversity of stoneflies (Plecoptera; Insecta) in freshwater. In E. V. Balian, C. Lévêque, H. Segers & K. Martens. "Freshwater Animal Diversity Assessment". Hydrobiologia 595: 265–377. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-8259-7_39
  • Hynes, H. B. N. (1993). Adults and Nymphs of British Stoneflies. Freshwater Biological Association. ISBN 0-900386-28-2.
  • Zwick, P. (2000). "Phylogenetic system and zoogeography of the Plecoptera". Annual Review of Entomology 45: 709–746. doi:10.1146/annurev.ento.45.1.709
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Plecoptera Overview

Stoneflies are found all over the world except Antarctica.  There are currently about 3, 500 known species. They have two pairs of membranous wings and are poor fliers.  Stoneflies undergo simple metamorphosis and the nymphs are aquatic.  Nymphs breathe with gills or the external surface of their skin depending on the species.  The nymph stage lasts for about one to four years and will molt twelve to 33 times before becoming an adult.  Most adults do not eat, but the species that do feed on cyanobacteria (blue-green algae).  Males and females communicate with each other using acoustic signals.  Stoneflies are often found resting on bridges or other areas near a stream or river.  They are sensitive to water pollution because they depend on water with high levels of oxygen.  When they are found near streams it is a good sign that the water is relatively clean.  They are attracted to light in the darkness.  They can be seen in the fossil record as far back as the Lower Permian period.

  • Borror, Donald, Charles Triplehorn, and Norman Johnson. An Introduction to the Study of Insects. 6th ed. Saunders College Publishing, 1989. 251-257. Print.
  • Capinera, John. "Stoneflies (Plecoptera)." Encyclopedia of Entomology. 4. 2008.
  • Nelson, C. Riley. 1996. Plecoptera. Stoneflies. Version 01 January 1996 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Plecoptera/8245/1996.01.01 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/
  • "Plecoptera." Wikipedia. 2013. .
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Ecology

Associations

Known prey organisms

Plecoptera preys on:
algae

Based on studies in:
Japan (River)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • M. Tsuda, Interim results of the Yoshino River productivity survey, especially on benthic animals. In: Productivity Problems of Freshwaters, Z. Kajak and A. Hillbricht-Ilkowska, Eds. (Polish Scientific, Warsaw, 1972), pp. 827-841, from p. 839.
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Known predators

Plecoptera is prey of:
Rhinogobius flumineus
Cobitis biwae
Liobagrus reini
Cottus pollux
Maroco jouyi
Oncorhynchus rhodurus

Based on studies in:
Japan (River)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • M. Tsuda, Interim results of the Yoshino River productivity survey, especially on benthic animals. In: Productivity Problems of Freshwaters, Z. Kajak and A. Hillbricht-Ilkowska, Eds. (Polish Scientific, Warsaw, 1972), pp. 827-841, from p. 839.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:9,365Public Records:6,318
Specimens with Sequences:7,975Public Species:249
Specimens with Barcodes:7,621Public BINs:807
Species:722         
Species With Barcodes:624         
          
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Barcode data

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Plecoptera

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