Ephemeroptera: India

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This is an extract from
Protozoa to Mammalia
State of the Art.
Zoological Survey of India, 1991.
By Professor Mohammad Shamim Jairajpuri
Director, Zoological Survey of India
and his team of devoted scientists.
The said book is an enlarged, updated version of
The State of Art Report: Zoology
Edited by Dr. T. N. Ananthakrishnan,
Director, Zoological Survey of India in 1980.

Note: This article is likely to have several spelling mistakes that occurred during scanning. If these errors are reported as messages to the Facebook page, Indpaedia.com your help will be gratefully acknowledged.




Ephemeroptera belong to Exopterygota (or Hemimetabola), i.e. with an incomplete metamorphosis. Its larva basically resembles the adult in appearance, with wings that develop externally as wing-buds in the immature stages, and with a life cycle divided into three definite stages of egg, larva and adult. The name Ephemeroptera (Greek ep~emeros -lasting for a day; pteron -wing) refers to the brief life of the adult, which is sometimes called 'onlyfly' Adults do not feed, and live for only one or two hours in some species, but up to about fourteen days in some ovoviviparous species.

These relatively primitive insects posses a number of traits that are thought to have been present in the earliest winged insects, such as tails and an inability to fold the wings flat over the body. These are unique among winged insects in having two adult stages. The frrst, called the subimago, emerges from the last larval stage and, depending on air temperature" usually moults within 24 hours to the second, called the Imago (plural imagines). Larvae are also called nymphs or naiads by some workers.

Ephemeropterans, which are commonly known as mayflies, are amphibiotic insects. Major pan of their life cycle is spent in various freshwater ecosystems in their egg and larval stages. Adults are extremely short lived -'ephemeral', hence the ordinal name 'Ephemeroptera' These insects essentially undergo an aquatic phase for completion of their life cycle. Ephemeroptera represents one of the Paleoptern insect orders, which have an independent line of evolution from earlier Pterygote insects. Their earliest fossil records are known from Devonian in Paleozoic. Carpenter (1933) recognized after restoration of fossil mayfly from Kansas shales -Protereisma permianum, the earliest well preserved mayfly from Permian. Mayflies, as a group of insects, seemingly reached their maximum relative abundance in the Pennian.


Linnaeus originally placed ephemeropterans in Neuroptera, together with all other insects having net-veined wings. This Neuroptera was gradually split into several orders, including the Ephemeroptera. Oassification of the order has undergone radical change since Linnaeus. The basis of Ephemeroptera classification was laid by Eaton in his Revisional Monograph. No suborders are presently recognized. This order of insects has a world fauna of 2146 species, under 213 genera and 20 families (Hubbard and Peters 1978). Indian representation is 96 species under 36 genera and 12 f~ilies. Among these the endemic component is of 72 species while the high altitude component comprises of 33 species (Srivastava, 1983 a and b).

Historical Resume

i) Pre-1900

The fust mayfly species described from India was Palingenia indica (Ephoron indicus) by Pictet (1843). Walker, working on the collections of the British Museum (1853) and on the collections of W. W. Saundrs (1860) described Caenis perpusilla and Cloeon debilis (Procloeon debilis) respectively from India. Hagen (1858) worked on baetine mayflies of Sri Lanka.

During the period upto 1900, only 5 species were described: two under Ephemeridae, two under Palingenidae, and one under Heptageniidae. v. D. Srivastava, Zoological Survey of India, Calcutta and K. G. Sivaramakrishnan, Depu. of Zoology, Madura College, Madurai. Incidently the last one happens to be highest locality record for any Indian .mayfly i.e. 5297 meters, and that too from a lake, Needham (1909) dealt with several Ephemeropteran species, which were present in the collection of Indian Museum (presently housed at the Zoological Survey of India). It includes addition records, etc of Several Indian mayflies. Ulmer (1902) described Ecdyonurus benga/ensis from Darjeeling, West Bengal.

iii) 1948-1990

Contributions of this period included Dubey (1970 a and b, 1971), Gilles (1949, 1951, 1957) Hubbard and Peters (1978), Kapur and Kriplani (1963), Kaul and Dubey (1970) Kimmins (1947), Mc Cafferty (1973) (a and b), Peters (1967, 1975), Srivastava (1980, 1990) Srivastava and Ray (1987) etc. Prosopistoma 'indicum was described from Kerala by Peters (1967). Peters and Edmunds (1970) made an extensive reivision of Eastern Hemisphere Leptophlebiidae in which a number of genera were established from India. Other contributions to the understanding of Leptophlebiidae of South India were made by Peters (1975), Sivaramakrishnan and Hubbard (1984), Sivaramakrishnan (1984-1987; etc.).

Studies from Different Environs

Bioecological observation on a CIoeon species from a lentic water body is dealt in Srivastava and Ray (1981), incl,uding seasonal fluctuations, description of male, female larva, subimago and imago. Srivastava (1986) has dealt with seasonal fluctuation, and relation with their Zygopteran predator. Bisht and Das (1983) have dealt ~ology with ephemeroptera of high altitude lake. Gupta and Michael (1978, 1983) have dealt with seasonal fluctuation, relative abundance on benthic ephemeraptera and population ecology. Sivaramkrishnan 'and Job (1978), have done population dynamics of'mayflies of stream. Map may be seen for areas studied.

Classified Treatment

Family Baetidae

This family, in India, is represented by 35 species, 6 genera, as compared to world component of 519 species under 6 genera. This is single largest family, among this genus Baetis Leach with 18 species is single largest genus. Most of these species are inhabitant of high altitude lotic water body, though members of Cloeon are also len tic inhabitants. These mostly occupy littoral zone. Imagos have much reduced venation, hind-wing may be reduced or even absent, while larvae are slender. Eyes in male or turbinate. Larvae of 5 Indian species are known.

Family Ephemeridae

This family is represented in India by 14 species under,3 genera vis-a-vis 99 species 8 genera world over. This-family is the second largest family represented in India; Heptageniidae also comes under this family Ephemera Linnaeus is the genus on which early Ephemerida and subsequently subfamily Ephemerillinae was based. It received family status, alongwith Baetidae. Spc,,~~men of this family are relatively larger, veins much more than Baetidae, both wings well develol-'~d. Larvae are mostly benthic, and are broader and some what depressed. Larvae of only 2 Indian species are known.

Family Heptageniidae

This family is represented by 14 species, under 8 genera vis-a-vis 378 species and 28 genera world over. In a number of genera this family comes next only to Leptophlebiidae (10 genera). This family has its member mostly represented as benthic forms of lotic ecosystem. These have also both wings well developed, profusely reticulated; while larvae are conspicuously broad and flattened. Larvae of only 2 Indian species are known. Families India World High Altitude Distribution G S G S G S ES o ID Ametropodidae 1 4' Baetidae 6 17 519 3 15 29 5 Baetiscidae 1 12 Behningidae 3 5 Caenidae 2 7 6 81 1 1 4 1 Ephemerellidae 2 3 7 120 1 2 3 Ephemeridae 3 14 8 99 1 4 9 5 Euthyplociidae 1 1 7 12 1 Heptageniidae 8 14 28 378 6 7 12 1 Leptophlebiidae 9 10 62 377 2 2 9 1 Metrotropidae 2 7 Neolphemeridae 2 8 Oligoneuriidae 9 49 P ( allingeniidae 1 3 6 31 1 2 Polymitarcyidae 2 3 6 .70 1 2 Potamanthidae 1 1 7 27 1 Prosopistomatidae 1 1 1 11 1 Siphlanigmatidae 1 1 Siphlonuridae 1 1 26 163 1 1 1 Tricorythidae 13 122 Total 36 94 213 2146 15 32 72 71 1 EO =Extra Oriental, ES =Endemic Specie~, G =Gener~ 0 =Oriental, S =Species.

Family Leptophlebiidae

There are 12 species under 10 genera represented in India, as against world fauna of 377 species, 62 genera. This family has maximum. number of genera within our limits. This family inhabits mostly in the benthic zone/under the shelter of rocks, pebbles in lotic water bodies. Both imagos and larvae are large and broad. Imagos have well developed pair ofreticulated wings. Larvae ofonly 2 Indians species are known.

Family Caenidae

This family is represented in India by 7 species 2 genera vis-a-vis 81 species 6 genera world over. This family inhabits trash and bottoln layer, and its members have protective gill cover of opercular nature. These are smaller mayflies, somewhat like those of members Baetidae, so are reduced wing reticulation. Larvae of only 2 Indian species are known.

The remaining seven families include 9 genera, 13 species. Out of the~ 13 Indian species, larvae of only 4 are known.

Current Studies

In accordance with departmental stress on'State Fauna' series, Ephemeroptera of Meghalaya with key to their identification and distribution pattern is being carried out in Z.S'!. Similar studies on West Bengal (Srivastava &Sinha,1990) and Orissa (Srivastava &Ray, 1987) have been completed.

Ephemeroptera work is also being carried out at certain institutes, colleges and universities. These are mainly on population dynamics (Gupta &Michael, N. E. Hill University, Shillong); life cycle microdistribution, trophic relationships, fecundity and behavioural pattern of emergence, mating, swarming, oviposition (Sivaramakrishnan and his team at Research Centre in Aquatic Entomology, Dept. of Zoology, Madma College, Madurai).

Ephemeroptera work, outside India, is being carried out on diversified aspects of this interesting group by various workers attached to certain University!Institutes abroad some of their work includes Indian mayflies; their name, address is given under the following item. Most of other workers are there on world fauna their names are not included. The diversified range includes applied aspects, Phylogeny and Systematics, Faunistics, Biology, Ecolog.y, Behaviour reviewing and historical aspects of mayfly biology.

Expertise India


V. D. Srivastava, Zoological Survey of India, M-Block, New Alipur, Calcutta 700 053.


R. G. Michael &A. Gupta, Department of Zoology, School of Life Sciences, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong 793 014, Meghalaya.

K. G. Sivaramkrishnan & K. Venkataraman, Centre for Research in Aquatic Entomology, Deparunent of Zoology, Madura College (Autonomous), Madurai 625011.


G. F. Edmunds Jr., Department of Biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112

L. Peters &M. D. Hubbard, Dept. of Entomology, Florida A &M University, Tallahassee, FL 32307 U.S.A.

P. McCafferty, Dept. of Entomology, Purdue University West Lafayette, Indiana.47907

M. Grant, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford, OK 73096 U.S.A.

T. Gillies, Lewes, E. Sussex, BN 8 TO, U.K. Braasch, Dept. of Biology, 1500 Potsdam, Maybachstra}Je;Germany (East). Soldan, Institute of Entomology, Czechoslovak Academy of Science Nasadkach 7, 37005, Czechoslovakia.

Selected References

Brittain, J. E. 1982. Biology of Mayflies. Ann. Rev. Entomol., 27 : 119-147.

Chopra, B. 1927. The Indian Ephemeroptera (mayflies). Part I. The suborder Ephemeroidea : Families Palingeniidae and Polymitarcidae. Rec. Indian Mus., 29 : 91-138.

Edmunds, G. F., Jr. 1972. Biogeography and evolution of Ephemeroptera. Ann. Rev. Entomol., 17 : 21-42.

Edmunds, G. F., Jr., R. K. Allen & Peters, W. L. 1963. An annotated key to the nymphs of the families and subfamilies of mayflies (Ephemeroptera). Univ. Utah. Bioi .. Ser., 13 : 1¬ 49.

Hubbard, M. D. &Peters, W. L. 1978. A catalogue of Ephemeroptera of the Indian subregion. Oriental Insect. Supple No.9: 1-43.

Kapur, A. P. &Kripalani, M. B. 1963 (1961). the mayflies (Ephemeroptera) from the North¬Western Himalaya. Rec. Indian Mus., 59 : 183-221.

Kimmins, D. E. 1947. New species of Indian Ephemeroptera. Proc. R. ent. Soc. London (B), 16 : 92-100.

Srivastava, V. D. 1983. Analysis of the faunal component of Indian Ephemeroptera and their role in aquatic ecosystem. Proc. Sym. Ins. Ecol. &Resource Manage. : 153-168, 5 tables, 2 figs.

Srivastava, V. D. 1983. High Altitude Ephemeroptera of India. Proc. Wkshp. High Alt. Ent. and Wildl. Ecol:, 2001. Surv. India: 137-159, 4 tables, 2 figs.

Srivastava, V. D. 1986. Ephemeroptera larvae, as component of aquatic environment and their role as bioindicator of pollution. Proc. Sym. Pest. Resid and Env. Poilu. : 206-218, 4 tables, 3 figs.

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