Macromia alleghaniensis exuvia

Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, collected an odonate exuvia on 07 June 2018 along either Little Otter Creek or Otter Creek near the place where both creeks are distributaries of Otter Lake in Amherst County, Virginia USA.

A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the exuvia.

  1. Determine the family.
  2. Determine the genus and species.

Step 1. Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06). Here’s the decision tree used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

  • The specimen has a mask-like labium (prementum) that covers the face, as shown in Photo No. 1, characteristic of four families of odonates: Cordulegastridae (Spiketails); Corduliidae (Emeralds); Libellulidae (Skimmers); and Macromiidae (Cruisers).
  • The teeth on the margins of the labium have a regular pattern. (The pattern reminds me of a “spork.”)
  • Its eyes are small, wide set, and stick up.
  • Image No. 2 shows there is a horn on the face-head, characteristic of Macromiidae.

Photo No. 1 shows a face-head view of the exuvia, magnified approximately three times life size (~3x).

No. 1 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (face-head)

Image No. 2 shows the top of the head of the exuvia, magnified approximately three times life size (~3x). Notice the prominent horn on the face.

No. 2 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (head-horn)

Step 2. Genus and species

Two dichotomous keys found on p. 27 of Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz, were used to determine the genus and species of the exuvia. Field marks that match this specimen are highlighted in boldface green text. Three boldface green asterisks (***) are used to highlight the thread for identification of this specimen.

Key to the Genera of the Family Macromiidae

***1b. Lateral spines of abdominal segment 9 do not reach to rearward level of tips of inferior appendages [paraprocts]; Sides of head somewhat convergent behind eyes to pair of low turbercules on hind angles; Lateral setae of labium = 6; Small dorsal hook on segment 10. [Macromia]

A small dorsal hook on abdominal segment 10 is characteristic of Genus Macromia.

No. 3 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (dorsal-lateral)

Look closely at the full-size version of Image No. 4. Notice the little “nub” on abdominal segment 10 (S10), below the underside of the dorsal hook on abdominal segment nine (S9). The same structure is labeled with a white question mark in Image No. 3.

No. 4 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (dorsal-lateral)

The lateral spines of abdominal segment 9 (S9) do not reach rearward to the tips of the inferior appendages (paraprocts).

No. 5 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (dorsal)

Key to the Species of Macromia

1a. Lateral spines of abdominal segments 8 and 9 directed straight to rearward. [illinoiensis]

***1b. Lateral spines of abdominal segments 8 and 9 incurved, especially 8. [alleghaniensis]

The lateral spines of abdominal segments 8 and 9 (S8-9) are incurved, especially segment 8 (S8), indicating this species is alleghaniensis.

No. 6 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (ventral)

This individual is probably a male, as indicated by what appear to be vestigial hamules located on the ventral side of abdominal segments two and three (S2-3).


A prominent horn on the face is a key field mark for the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers), a small dorsal hook on abdominal segment 10 is one characteristic of the Genus Macromia, and the lateral spines of abdominal segments 8 and 9 (S8-9) are incurved, indicating the species is alleghaniensis. Therefore this specimen is an Allegheny River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia alleghaniensis).

Bonus Gallery

No. 7 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (face-head)

No. 8 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (dorsal-lateral)

No. 9 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (dorsal)

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot Photo/Image No. 3-9: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tubeCanon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites set for “Slave” mode. Photo/Image No. 1 and 2Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (manual focus only, set for ~3x magnification) plus the multiple-flash setup.

Image No. 2-8 are focus-stacked composite images created and annotated using Adobe Photoshop CC 2017: Image No. 2 (eight photos); Image No. 3 (six photos); Image No. 4 (four photos); Image No. 5 (five photos); Image No. 6 (five photos); Image No. 7 (seven photos); Image No. 8 (seven photos).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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