Nature conservation

Threatened species

Coastal Petaltail - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Petalura litorea
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Gazetted date: 08 Dec 2006
Profile last updated: 01 Dec 2017


The Coastal Petaltail Petalura litorea is closely related to the Giant Dragonfly P. gigantea and is one of the largest dragonflies in Australia. Males have a hindwing of 5.2-5.5cm. Their abdomen is 7-7.9cm with orange petal-shaped claspers at the terminal end used to help grasp the female during mating. Females have a hindwing of 4.9-5.8cm and an abdomen of 5.9-7.4cm, without claspers. Both sexes have widely-spaced eyes and a predominantly brownish-black segmented body with contrasting light yellow linear markings along the back and sides. The larvae are also very large, up to 5cm in length. When the dragonflies emerge from the larvae, they leave behind characteristic shells (exuviae). The Coastal Petaltail is more slender than the Giant Dragonfly, with a better defined and more strongly contrasting colour pattern. There are also differences between the two species in head structure with the Coastal Petaltail more similar to the northern Petalura species than to the Giant Dragonfly.


The Coastal Petaltail is known from Byfield (near Yeppoon in Queensland) to Bonville (south of Coffs Harbour). In NSW it is known from a very small number of locations, including Brooms Head, Tucabia, Diggers Camp and Bonville.

Habitat and ecology

  • The Coastal Petaltail occupies a variety of permanent to semi-permanent coastal freshwater wetlands.
  • Adults emerge from late October to late January and probably live for no more than three months.
  • Adults spend most of their time settled on low vegetation on or adjacent to the swamp. They hunt flying insects on the wing over the swamp and around its margins.
  • Immediately after mating, females lay eggs into suitable egg laying sites within the swamp.
  • Larvae dig long branching burrows under the swamp. They are slow growing and the larval stage lasts at least 10 years.
  • It is thought that larvae leave their burrows at night and feed on insects and other invertebrates on the surface and also use underwater entrances to hunt for food in the aquatic vegetation.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Known None
NSW North CoastYuraygir Known None
South Eastern QueenslandBurringbar-Conondale Ranges Predicted None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Sandstones Known None
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Known None
South Eastern QueenslandSunshine Coast-Gold Coast Lowlands Predicted None