Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory




Regional Maps

Family TIPULIDAE Latreille, 1802

Compiler and date details

2011 - Kathleen Nugent and Christine Lambkin, Queensland Museum, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

1999 - E.-M.E. Bugledich, CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia


The Tipulidae is the largest family of Diptera, with some 15 000 described species. Although many Australian species have been described by Alexander, Dobrotworsky and Theischinger, there are many more to be named. Commonly known as 'crane flies', the Tipulidae span an appreciable size range from 2–3mm to over 60mm in body length. Recognition of the adult is based upon wing venation in which two anal veins reach the margin, and in which the second anal vein is not short and strongly curved as in most Trichoceridae.

Continental European students of the Tipulidae tend to elevate the three constituent subfamilies, Tipulinae, Cylindrotominae and Limoniinae to family rank. Although each grouping appears to be monophyletic, there is no obvious phylogenetic basis for such elevation of ranks. Thus the broader family concept used by most Anglophone workers is retained in this catalogue. Contemporary views on the phylogenetic position of the Tipulidae are changing from a basal position close to the Tanyderidae (based on retention in the adult of many characters in the plesiomorphic condition), to a more derived position, with immature stage features showing derived similarities with 'higher' Diptera.

In the immature stages, the Tipulidae form quite a heterogenous grouping. Larval head capsules range from complete (that is, with the dorsal margin a continuous ring), to varying degrees of reduction, such that the posterior part of the head comprises only some rods. The head may be retractile into the thorax, as in many Brachycera. The respiratory system is predominantly metapneustic, rarely apneustic. The posterior segment frequently bears elongate papillae around the margin of the plate that bears the posterior spiracles and the anus.

The biology of the Tipulidae shows great variation in the larvae, and very little for the adults, which are predominantly found in moist and shaded environments presumably close to the larval habitat. The latter range from aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats, such as marshes, flowing waters, the hygropetric zone, interstitial sand and pebbles, immersed wood and in depositional areas. Some aquatic species tolerate elevated salinities, including marine rock pools and brackish and estuarine conditions. There are many species living in more terrestrial habitats such as rotting wood, leaf litter, decomposing vegetation and a few are even associated with living materials such as mosses and grass roots.

The Tipulidae are cosmopolitan, from the Arctic to the subantarctic islands. They are well represented in the fossil record, with Tipulinae reported as early as the Upper Cretaceous, Limoniinae from the upper Triassic and the Cylindrotominae from the Eocene. Ribeiro et al. (2014) analysed world patterns of endemisn, identifying five large scale areas of endemism for Australia.

The oldest fossil crane fly from Australia, Eotipula grangeri is described from the Upper Jurassic Talbragar Fish Bed in Australia by Oberprieler et al. (2015).

In preparation of this section of the Catalogue, the compiler has generally cited a recent revision for the taxonomic arrangements adopted, including for many synonymies, rather than the original author of the arrangement.


General References

Buxton, P.A. 1928. Resemblance between a pholcid spider, a tipulid and a reduvid in Samoa. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of London 2: 65-66

Byers, G.W. 1992. Crane flies — three families or one. Acta Zoologica Cracoviensia 35: 37-41

Dobrotworsky, N.V. 1968. The Tipulidae (Diptera) of Australia. II. The genus Clytocosmus Skuse. Australian Journal of Zoology 16: 495-510

Johns, P.M. 1972. Notes on aquatic tipulids (Diptera: Nematocera: Tipulidae). Newsletter of the New Zealand Limnological Society 8: 24-26

Oberprieler, S.K., Krzemiński, W., Hinde, J. &Yeates, D.K. 2015. First crane fly from the Upper Jurassic of Australia (Diptera: Limoniidae). Zootaxa 4021(1): 178–186

Oosterbroek, P. & Jonas, T. 1986. Catalogue of the Australian-Oceanian Tipulidae (Insecta, Diptera). Amsterdam, The Netherlands : Privately published 242 pp.

Ribeiro, G.C. 2008. Phylogeny of the Limnophilinae (Limoniidae) and early evolution of the Tipulomorpha (Diptera). Invertebrate Systematics 22: 627-694 (see this paper for an alternative classification of this group)

Ribeiro, G.C., Santos, C.M.D., Olivieri, L.T., Santos, D., Berbert, J.M. & Eterovic, A. 2014. The world's biogeographical regions revisited: global patterns of endemism in Tipulidae (Diptera). Zootaxa 3847(2): 241–258

Rogers, J.S. 1949. The life history of Megistocera longipennis (Macquart) (Tipulidae, Diptera), a member of the Neuston fauna. Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 521: 1-14

Williams, F.X. 1943. Biological studies in Hawaiian water-loving insects—part III. Diptera or flies—C, Tipulidae and Psychodidae. Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomological Society 11: 313-338


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
03-Nov-2011 13-Oct-2015 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)