Ophiogomphus howei - Bromley, 1924
Pygmy Snaketail
Synonym(s): Ophionuroides howei
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Ophiogomphus howei Bromley, 1924 (TSN 101749)
French Common Names: ophiogomphe de Howe
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.117663
Element Code: IIODO12090
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Invertebrates - Insects - Dragonflies and Damselflies
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Mandibulata Insecta Odonata Gomphidae Ophiogomphus
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Paulson, D.R. and S.W. Dunkle. 1999. A Checklist of North American Odonata. Slater Museum of Natural History, University of Puget Sound Occasional Paper, 56: 86 pp. Available: http://www.ups.edu/x7015.xml.
Concept Reference Code: A99PAU01EHUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Ophiogomphus howei
Taxonomic Comments: The classification of the genus and species is currently stable; Carle (1986, 1992) placed Ophiogomphus howei in the subgenus Ophionuroides.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 28Nov2006
Global Status Last Changed: 30Oct1998
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Rare or local throughout a moderately large range in northeastern USA. Only a single Canadian site. Probably over 100 occurrences but fewer actually known, actual linear occupancy is low (<400 km). Threats exist in parts of the range.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3 (30Oct1998)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N1N2 (15Nov2011)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Kentucky (S1S2), Maine (S2S3), Massachusetts (SX), Michigan (S1), Minnesota (SNR), New York (S1), North Carolina (S1), Pennsylvania (S1), Tennessee (S3?), Virginia (S1S2), Wisconsin (S4)
Canada New Brunswick (S1), Ontario (S1)

Other Statuses

Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) Schedule 1/Annexe 1 Status: SC (04Feb2011)
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Special Concern (28Nov2008)
Comments on COSEWIC: Reason for Designation: This globally rare species is known from few locations and has a specialized and restricted habitat with low population numbers and one significant site is threatened.

Status History: Designated Special Concern in November 2008. Assessment based on a new status report.

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Northeastern North America: A substantial total known range from northeast Maine (including the St. Croix River on the New Brunswick-Maine border) west to Wisconsin, south to Kentucky and Virginia (Westfall and May 1996). It is apparently very local throughout most of its range and has been extirpated from Massachusetts. It may also occur in Georgia, South Carolina, West Virginia, Ontario, and Quebec. Area approximately 650 x 2,000 kilometers = 1,300,000 square kilometers (approximately 400 x 1,200 miles = 480,000 square miles). Known from only a single locality on the St. John River in New Brunswick, Canada.

Area of Occupancy: 101-2,000 1-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: Probably less than 250 miles (400 km) of occurrences.

Number of Occurrences: 21 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Based on inventory data from the Acadian Region, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina, there could be as many as 175 occurrences in these states/provinces. This number could be an underestimate when you consider under-surveyed areas, however the species appears to disappeared from at least one state. Survey will be influenced by the great difficulty of locating adults, which apparently live the bulk of their time in the tops of trees; however exuviae are readily determined and their collection is the most effective survey method for this species. This species has been studied extensively in the 1990s in Maine by students of the University of Maine, Orono (B. Bradeen, D. Boland) and survey by Boland was supported by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in 1996, by deMaynadier in 1997 and 1998.

Population Size: 2500 - 100,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Occasionally abundant where found e.g., Saint Croix River in Minnesota and Wisconsin, the South Fork Flambeau River in Wisconsin, and the New River in Virginia.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Some (13-40)

Overall Threat Impact: High
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Current threats appear moderate over much of the species' northern range, but habitat threat is probably major to the south. Potential threats of habitat degradation are the impoundment of running waters by human activities such as poorly drained roads, damming, and also natural activities such as beaver damming (often a transient effect), channelization leading to scour of microhabitats, toxic or organic pollution, introduction of exotic species.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: No abundance changes not attributable to flight season have been noted.

Long-term Trend: Unknown

Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Given the high vagility of the species (estimated 10 kilometers (6 miles) per day along the waterway) and the prevalence of suitable habitat over much of its range, the species' overall population is not considered fragile. Localized extirpations would likely be re-inhabited very shortly (less than 2 years) after habitat recovery, with catchment extirpations requiring somewhat more time (less than 5 years).

Environmental Specificity: Narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements common.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Northeastern North America: A substantial total known range from northeast Maine (including the St. Croix River on the New Brunswick-Maine border) west to Wisconsin, south to Kentucky and Virginia (Westfall and May 1996). It is apparently very local throughout most of its range and has been extirpated from Massachusetts. It may also occur in Georgia, South Carolina, West Virginia, Ontario, and Quebec. Area approximately 650 x 2,000 kilometers = 1,300,000 square kilometers (approximately 400 x 1,200 miles = 480,000 square miles). Known from only a single locality on the St. John River in New Brunswick, Canada.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States KY, MAextirpated, ME, MI, MN, NC, NY, PA, TN, VA, WI
Canada NB, ON

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
KY Breathitt (21025), Carter (21043), Clay (21051)*, Jackson (21109), Laurel (21125), Rockcastle (21203)
ME Aroostook (23003), Cumberland (23005), Oxford (23017), Penobscot (23019), Piscataquis (23021), Washington (23029), York (23031)
MI Iron (26071)
NC Alleghany (37005), Ashe (37009), Burke (37023)
NY Broome (36007)*, Saratoga (36091), Warren (36113)
PA Cumberland (42041)*, Susquehanna (42115)
TN Hardeman (47069), McNairy (47109)
VA Carroll (51035), Floyd (51063), Grayson (51077), Wythe (51197)
WI Ashland (55003), Barron (55005), Burnett (55013), Chippewa (55017), Douglas (55031), Dunn (55033), Florence (55037), Forest (55041), Langlade (55067), Lincoln (55069), Marathon (55073), Marinette (55075), Menominee (55078), Oconto (55083), Oneida (55085), Polk (55095), Price (55099), Rusk (55107), Sawyer (55113), Shawano (55115), Taylor (55119), Washburn (55129), Waupaca (55135)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Allagash (01010002)+, Aroostook (01010004)+, West Branch Penobscot (01020001)+, East Branch Penobscot (01020002)+, Mattawamkeag (01020003)+, Piscataquis (01020004)+, Lower Penobscot (01020005)+, Lower Androscoggin (01040002)+, St. Croix (01050001)+, Maine Coastal (01050002)+, Presumpscot (01060001)+, Saco (01060002)+
02 Upper Hudson (02020001)+, Hudson-Hoosic (02020003)+, Upper Susquehanna (02050101)+, Chenango (02050102)+*, Owego-Wappasening (02050103)+*, Lower Susquehanna-Swatara (02050305)+*
03 Upper Catawba (03050101)+
04 Oconto (04030104)+, Peshtigo (04030105)+, Brule (04030106)+, Menominee (04030108)+, Wolf (04030202)+
05 Upper New (05050001)+, Little Scioto-Tygarts (05090103)+*, Little Sandy (05090104)+, Middle Fork Kentucky (05100202)+, Rockcastle (05130102)+
07 Upper St. Croix (07030001)+, Namekagon (07030002)+, Lower St. Croix (07030005)+, Upper Chippewa (07050001)+, Flambeau (07050002)+, South Fork Flambeau (07050003)+, Jump (07050004)+, Lower Chippewa (07050005)+, Red Cedar (07050007)+, Upper Wisconsin (07070001)+, Lake Dubay (07070002)+
08 Upper Hatchie (08010207)+, Lower Hatchie (08010208)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: A very small sized, stocky dragonfly of running waters, its hindwings having an amber basal field.
General Description: Easily recognized by small chunky shape, bright green thorax, and hindwings tinted yellow in basal half (Needham & Westfall, 1955). Larva flat, brown, and with divergent wing cases.
Diagnostic Characteristics: Coloration is diagnostic. Larva unique in genus due to its small size and lack of dorsal abdominal spines (Kennedy & White, 1979).
Ecology Comments: Require big rivers with high water quality and stable flow.
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Riverine Habitat(s): BIG RIVER
Habitat Comments: Lotic. Overall habitat is clear rivers with strong current over coarse cobbles and with periodic rapids sections.

Landform required to promote a strong current in large running waters does not require great relief. The microhabitat (sub-EO) is areas proximal to rapids or to surface-breaking structure such as cobbles, boulders or deadwood.

Eggs are laid outside of plant tissues in current near to the surface-breaking structure or rapids, the establishment of male territorial mating arenas nearby, possibly high in marginal vegetation or trees, and development of larvae in interstices of the benthic cobbles where the eggs would be carried when laid.

Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Phenology Comments: Larvae overwinter, flight season late April to early June.
Length: 3.3 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: River-breeding Dragonfly Odonates

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on some evidence of historical or current presence of single or multiple specimens ideally with evidence of on-site breeding (teneral adults, mating pairs, territorial males, ovipositing females, larvae, or exuviae) at a given location with potential breeding habitat. Although oviposition may not necessarily yield progeny that survive to adulthood (Fincke, 1992) and movements resembling oviposition may not necessarily result in egg deposition (Okazawa and Ubukata, 1978; Martens, 1992; 1994), presence of on-site oviposition is here accepted as an indicator of a minimum element occurrence because the time and effort involved in determining success of emergence is beyond the scope of the general survey. As adults of some species might disperse moderate distances (see below), only sites with available larval habitat can be considered appropriate for a minimum occurrence. Single, non-breeding adults captured away from potential suitable breeding habitat should not be treated as element occurrences. Evidence is derived from reliable published observation or collection data; unpublished, though documented (i.e. government or agency reports, web sites, etc.) observation or collection data; or museum specimen information. A photograph may be accepted as documentation of an element occurrence for adults only (nymphs and subimagos are too difficult to identify in this manner) provided that the photograph shows diagnostic features that clearly delineate the species from other species with similar features. Sight records, though valuable, should not be accepted as the basis for new element occurrences. Instead, such records should be utilized to further study an area to verify the element occurrence in that area.
Separation Barriers: Within catchments there are likely no significant barriers to movement of sexually mature adults between microhabitats, with even extensive sections of inappropriate waterway or major obstructions to flow being readily traversed by adults within the flight season. Dams large enough to cause extensive pooling may serve as separation barriers.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Alternate Separation Procedure: None
Separation Justification: Odonate dispersal capability has been poorly documented with long-range movements inferred from observations in transit and analogy with other insects (Conrad et al., 1999; Corbet, 1999). Adults are known to wander, some over great distances (not so for damselflies). Mass migration over great distances is not herein considered when drafting separation distances as such behavior is limited to few species (e.g. Anax junius, Libellula quadrimaculata and other Libellula spp., Sympetrum spp.), occurs unpredictably and infrequently (10 year cycles for L. quadrimaculata), are unidirectional or intergenerational (Freeland et al., 2003), or occurs under unusual circumstances such as irritation by trematode parasites (Dumont and Hinnekint, 1973) or during major weather events (Moskowitz et al., 2001; Russell et al., 1998).

Corbet (1999) estimated the average distance traveled for a commuting flight (between reproductive and roosting or foraging sites) to be less than 200 m but sometimes greater than one km. Distance traveled is generally greatest for river-breeding odonates, but can vary considerably between taxa (Corbet, 1999). Both D. Paulson and S. Valley (personal communication, 1998) suggest a population should be defined by the river drainage in which it is found, but drainages or catchments vary by orders of magnitude in size and isolation so it is not obvious how to effect this recommendation.

The combination of breeding dispersal in the range of a few km with the potential for periodic long distance dispersal providing landscapes are not fragmented has led to the somewhat arbitrary assignment of separation distances at 10 km (unsuitable and suitable).

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .5 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: The few studies determining area of adult foraging habitat surrounding breeding sites have indicated a range of 30 meters to 300 meters [see Briggs (1993) for Enallagma laterale; Corbet (1999) for Nesciothemis nigeriensis and Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis; Beukeman (2002) for Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis; and Samways and Steytler (1996) for Chorolestes tessalatus]. As a result, an element occurrence should include the breeding site and surrounding pond or upland habitat extending 500 m in a radius from the breeding site.
Date: 02Jun2004
Author: Cordeiro, J.
Notes: River breeding dragonflies:
ANISOPTERA: Aeshnidae: Aeshna dugesi, A. persephone, A. walkeri, Anax strenuus, A. walsinghami, Basiaeschna, Boyeria, Oplonaeschna; Cordulegastridae: Cordulegaster diadema, C. dorsalis, C. maculata; Corduliidae: Helocordulia, Somatochlora elongata, S. ensigera, S. filosa, S. forcipata, S. georgiana, S. linearis, S. margarita, S. minor, S. ozarkensis, S. tenebrosa, S. walshii; Gomphidae: Dromogomphus, Erpetogomphus, Gomphus (Gomphurus): all species, Gomphus (Gomphus): all species, Gomphus (Hylogomphus): all species, Gomphus (Stenogomphus): all species, Gomphus (Phanogomphus) borealis, G. descriptus, G. hodgesi, G. lividus, G. minutus, G. quadricolor, Hagenius, Lanthus, Neurocordulia, Octogomphus, Ophiogomphus, Phyllogomphoides albrighti, Progomphus borealis, P. obscurus, Remartina, Stylogomphus, Stylurus; Libellulidae: Brechmorhoga, Dythemis, Macrothemis, Nesogonia, Paltothemis, Pseudoleon; Macromiidae: Macromia

Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 28Nov2006
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Cordeiro, J. (2005); Vogt, T.E. [1992 edition]; Brunelle, P.M. [1998 ed], Schweitzer, D.F.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 16Jan1991
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): DUNKLE, S. W.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Bick, G.H. 1983. Odonata at risk in conterminous United States and Canada. Odonatologica 12(3):209-226.

  • Carle, F. L. 1986. The classification, phylogeny, and biogeography of the Gomphidae (Anisoptera). I. Classification. Odonatologica 15(3):275-326.

  • Carle, F. L. 1992. Ophiogomphus (Ophionurus) australis spec. nov. from the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, with larval and adult keys to American Ophiogomphus (Anisoptera: Gomphidae). Odonatologica 21(2):141-152.

  • Catling, P.M. 2002. Pygmy snaketail (Ophiogomphus howei), new to Canada. Argia, 14(3): 11-12.

  • Catling, P.M., R.A. Cannings, and P.M. Brunelle. 2005. An annotated checklist of the Odonata of Canada. Bulletin of American Odonatology 9(1):1-20.

  • Kennedy, J.H., and H.B. White. 1979. Description of the nymph of Ophiogomphus howei (Odonata:Gomphidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 81(1):64-69.

  • Mead, K. 2003. Dragonflies of the North Woods. Kollath-Stensaas Publishing, Duluth, Minnesota. 203 pp.

  • Moore, N.W. (compiler), 1997. Dragonflies - Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Odonata Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. ISBN 2-8317-0420-0. NNTC. 1996.

  • Needham, J.G. and M.J. Westfall, Jr. 1954. A Manual of the Dragonflies of North America (Anisoptera). University of California Press, Berkeley, California. 615 pp.

  • New York Natural Heritage Program. 2014. Database of odonate records by county for northeastern U.S. states. Data contributors available: http://nynhp.org/OdonataNE.

  • Paulson, D.R. and S.W. Dunkle. 1999. A Checklist of North American Odonata. Slater Museum of Natural History, University of Puget Sound Occasional Paper, 56: 86 pp. Available: http://www.ups.edu/x7015.xml.

  • Paulson, D.R., and S.W. Dunkle. 2009. A checklist of North American Odonata including English name, etymology, type locality, and distribution. Originally published as Occasional Paper No. 56, Slater Museum of Natural History, University of Puget Sound, June 1999; completely revised March 2009. Online. Available: http://www.odonatacentral.org/docs/NA_Odonata_Checklist_2009.pdf.

  • Perkins, P. D. 1983. North American insect status review. Contract 14-16-0009-79-052. Final report to Office of Endangered Species, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior. 354 pp.

  • Westfall, M. J., Jr., and M. L. May. 1996. Damselflies of North America. Scientific Publishers, Gainesville, Florida. 649 pp.

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