Neurocordulia yamaskanensis exuvia

A Stygian Shadowdragon dragonfly (Neurocordulia yamaskanensis) exuvia was collected by Freda van den Broek on 10 June 2019 along the St. Croix River in Interstate Park, Polk County, Wisconsin USA.

A two-step process was used to verify 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 Corduliidae (Emeralds).

  • The specimen has a mask-like labium (prementum) that covers the face, as shown in Image No. 1, characteristic of four families of odonates: Cordulegastridae (Spiketails); Corduliidae (Emeralds); Libellulidae (Skimmers); and Macromiidae (Cruisers).
  • There is no horn on the face-head, characteristic of Macromiidae, so it’s not a cruiser.
  • Cordulegastridae has angular, jagged crenulations on its labium, so it’s not a spiketail. The crenulations for Corduliidae and Libellulidae can look similar.
  • Look at the anal pyramid to differentiate Corduliidae and Libellulidae: It’s probably Corduliidae if the cerci are at least half as long as the paraprocts. [Editor’s Note: It’s probably Libellulidae if the cerci are less than half the length of the paraprocts.]

In summary, the exuvia has a mask-like labium, and no horn on its face-head. The deeply-scalloped crenulations along the margins of the palpal lobes are a characteristic field mark for Genus Neurocordulia (Shadowdragons) in the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds), according to Kevin Hemeon, member of the “Odonate Larvae and Exuviae” Facebook group.

Although the anal pyramid isn’t shown clearly in any of the photos in this field guide, careful examination of photos of the teneral adult that emerged from the exuvia (see The Backstory, below) confirmed the dragonfly is a Stygian Shadowdragon. Stygian is the only species of Neurocordulia (Shadowdragons) within range of Wisconsin.

A face-head view of the exuvia is shown in Image No. 1, magnified approximately two and one-half times life size (~2.5x). Notice the mask-like labium that covers the face of the exuvia, including deeply-scalloped crenulations with bundles of bristles (setae) located along the margins of the palpal lobes.

No. 1 | Neurocordulia yamaskanensis | exuvia (face-head)

Step 2. Genus and species

Dichotomous keys from Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz, were used to verify the genus and species of the exuvia. Field marks that match this specimen are highlighted in boldface green text.

Key to the Genera of the Family Corduliidae, p. 28.

1a. Pair of small tubercles on top of head; Lateral lobe of labium with 4 or 5 setae (except sometimes 6 or 7 in Neurocordulia). (2)

2a. Strong lateral spines of abdominal segment 8 very divergent and as strong as parallel spines of [S]9. (Neurocordulia)

Alternate Key to the Genera of the Family Corduliidae, p. 29.

1a. Dorsal hooks present and well developed on some of the abdominal segments. (2)

2a. Lateral spines present on segment 8. (3)

3a. Crenulations on distal margin of labial palpi nearly semicircular or even more deeply cut; Lateral spines on segment 8 divergent. (Neurocordulia)

Key to the Species of the Genus Neurocordulia, p. 31.

1b. Lateral spines of 9 about 30 to 50 percent of the length of segment 9, not extending beyond the tips of the caudal appendages; Dorsal hooks of segments 7 to 9 reduced to scarcely more than a short ridge; Length 22 – 24.5 mm. (yamaskanensis)

The following annotated focus-stacked composite images illustrate key field marks described in Soltesz’s dichotomous keys.

Notice the specimen has stubby mid-dorsal hooks along the length of its abdomen, as shown in Image No. 2.

Lateral spines are present on abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-S9): the lateral spines on S8 are divergent; the ones on S9 are parallel.

The exuvia is ~2.4 cm (~0.95 in) in length — the longest shadowdragon larva/exuvia in the genus Neurocordulia. Notice the lateral spines on abdominal segment nine (S9) don’t extend beyond the tips of the caudal appendages (terminal appendages), as shown below.

The Backstory

The following narrative was provided by Freda van den Broeck.

On the last morning of the Wisconsin Dragonfly Society Annual Meeting weekend — Sunday, June 10th 2019 — I made my way to the boat landing in Interstate Park, St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin USA.

The previous morning I’d photographed Mustached Clubtail emerging there (with Alon Coppens). We also saw several teneral Rapids Clubtails. One didn’t have to look hard to find exuviae — they were most easily seen on the rocks, just a couple of feet above the water line. I was really hoping to find a Snaketail emerging, but had no such luck.

Photo of St. Croix river used with permission from Freda van den Broek.

Just as I was about to head back to the car, I spotted a teneral, that had crawled up the rock face higher than I would have expected. At that point, I thought it was “just another baskettail” — we’d seen many of them on Friday afternoon and Saturday. But it was pretty and shiny, so I had to take a few pictures, even though I was late for breakfast. (It was around 8:20 am.)

It was several days later before I realized that it wasn’t a baskettail, but a Shadowdragon, and that a few of the exuviae I’d collected there were Stygian Shadowdragons. Source Credit: Freda van den Broek.

Photo used with permission from Freda van den Broek.

Tenerals are usually tough to identify, but you’ll notice in both photos that the [small yellow] spot on [side of] the thorax is clearly visible. Source Credit: Freda van den Broek.

Photo used with permission from Freda van den Broek.

Related Resources

Odonate Exuviae – a hyperlinked list of identification guides to many species of odonate exuviae from seven families of dragonflies and three families of damselflies.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “Neurocordulia yamaskanensis exuvia”

  1. Michael Boatwright Says:

    Great work!!!!

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