Saturday, February 11, 2012

Stoneflies

There are over 3,500 species within the  Plecoptera order, and these insects are commonly referred to as Stoneflies. They can be found on every single continent except for Antarctica. They are poor fliers as adults, which means the individual species tend to remain in small, specific areas. This is one of the reasons why there are so many distinct species.
Chloroperlidae Enderlein

Stoneflies are awesome because they are a very primitive order. Fossils of their close relatives have been dated to the Carboniferous and Permian periods, and the order itself has been around since the Mesozoic. That is several hundred million years of history!

Another interesting fact is that a handful of Stonefly species, including the Lake Tahoe Benthic Stonefly, have the distinction of being some of the only insects to live their entire lives in the water.

All Stoneflies spend their larval stage in the water, and they are very picky about the kind of water they live in. It must be oxygen rich and pollutant free, which means that Stoneflies are a good indicator of water cleanliness and ecological degradation. Young Stoneflies may molt anywhere from 10 to 30 times, depending on the species. It can take 1-3 years for them to reach their full adult form.... but then tragically, like with many insects, their adult life is very brief. It lasts only 1-4 weeks.

The diet of a Stonefly is dependent on both the species and the instar period. (Instars are the many phases that the larvae go through while molting to reach the adult form) Some young flies eat plants or detritus. Some hunt. Some start with one diet and end up with another a few instars later. The adults of some species don't have any mouthparts at all, which means that are unable to eat, giving them shorter lifespans.

Location : Worldwide except Antarctica
Size : Varies
Classification : Phylum : Arthropoda -- Class : Insecta -- Subclass : Pterygota
Superorder : Exopterygota -- Order : Plecoptera

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