The adult mayfly has two main functions, mating and ovipo-sition, which produce a general uniformity in structure. The prominent turbinate eyes of males, especially well-developed in the Baetidae and some Leptophlebiidae, provide both high acuity and good sensitivity. This enables them to detect and capture single females in a swarm at low light intensities.

The forelegs of most mayflies also show sexual differences; those of the male are unusually long for grasping and holding the female during mating. In the Polymitarcyidae, the middle and hind legs of the male and all the legs of the female are reduced, and in Dolania (Behningiidae) all the legs of both sexes are reduced. In Dolania and several members of the Polymitarcyidae and Palingeniidae, the females remain in the subimaginal stage. The reason for two winged stages has provoked much discussion. It has been suggested that this primitive trait is maintained because there has not been the selective pressure on the short-lived stages to produce just a single molt. Another explanation is that two molts are necessary to complete the elongation of the caudal filaments and forelegs of the adults. Most mayflies have two pairs of wings, but in the Caenidae, Tricorythidae, Baetidae, and some Leptophlebiidae, the hind wings are reduced or even absent.


Spermatogenesis and oogenesis are generally completed in the final nymphal instar, and the eggs and sperm are physiologically mature in the subimago. Most species produce 500 to 3000 eggs, but values range from less than 100 in Dolania to 12,000 in Palingenia, and the fecundity values recorded for the females of the larger species of mayfly are higher than in most other insect groups except the social

TABLE I Overview of the Mayfly Families and the Approximate Number of Genera and Species






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