Species Profile

Skillet Clubtail

Scientific Name: Gomphus ventricosus
Taxonomy Group: Arthropods
Range: New Brunswick
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2010
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Skillet Clubtail


The Skillet Clubtail is one of the most striking dragonfly species in Canada due to the almost circular expansion at the end of its otherwise slim abdomen. It is dark brown and black, with strong yellow markings on the dorsal abdomen, greenish-yellow markings on the thorax, dark green eyes, and clear wings. (Updated 2017/08/30)


Distribution and Population

The global range of the Skillet Clubtail is confined to North America east of the Mississippi and Red rivers, north to Rainy River and as far south as Tennessee. In Canada it has been reported historically from Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec, is currently well known from a location along the southern Saint John River in New Brunswick and possibly breeding in two other New Brunswick locations. (Updated 2017/08/30)



It is a specialist of clean, large, medium to slow-running waters with fine substrate, usually having a significant component of silt and/or clay. Such habitats are usually confined to segments of larger running waters where they flow through rich soils at a low gradient, and it is a comparatively rare type of habitat in southeastern Canada. Examples with clean water are particularly rare because such rivers are often surrounded by agricultural landscapes. Habitat of the largest known population is likely declining. (Updated 2017/08/30)



Eggs are deposited in the water, and the shallow-burrowing larvae take at least two years to develop before emergence. The species has a largely synchronous emergence in the latter two weeks of June over most of its Canadian range, as early as the end of May in the centre of the continent, and flies until mid-August. Following emergence, the dragonflies fly from the river for an extended period of maturation. Adults seem to spend little time at the larval waters, and likely spend the bulk of their life in the surrounding forest. Larvae are believed to be fed upon by turtles, fish, and crayfish, as well as by other predacious aquatic insects. It seems likely that most adult mortality is from insectivorous birds feeding in the riparian forests and clearings. Larvae likely eat whatever small creatures are also present in or on their substrate habitat based on observations of related species. Adults feed on whatever flying insects are available. (Updated 2017/08/30)



Anthropogenic habitat change represents the greatest potential threat to the species. Water of “marginal” quality has been identified in the Saint John River population. Eutrophication due to excessive nutrient input from sewage, or sedimentation due to agricultural or forestry runoff, pesticides and herbicides, and accidental or illegal dumping of chemicals may kill larvae in rivers. The extent to which pollution is a current problem is unclear. Terrestrial habitat is declining although very rapid and extensive declines seem unlikely in the near future. Invasive species can alter the biota to the detriment of the species; a particular diatom would likely extirpate the species where introduced. Predators supported by humans with food and/or cover, including a variety of birds such as Common Grackles, European Starlings and various swallows, the latter nesting under bridges, may have substantial impact on emerging larvae. The deliberate or inadvertent introduction of higher aquatic organisms may represent a threat; crayfish and fish species can have serious impacts. Direct potential threats to the species are road-kill as a result of collision with vehicles, interference with emergence by recreational use of waters and construction along shorelines. With regard to recreational use, waves from passing boats during the hours of emergence may kill the emerging dragonflies, but the importance of this threat is unknown. A potentially serious impact on the aquatic habitat is sea level rise. Already the downstream limit of the Saint John population is within 5 km of saline influence, and this influence will move upstream with noticeable effects likely over the next decade. (Updated 2017/08/30)



Federal Protection

The Skillet Clubtail is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

6 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Skillet Clubtail (2011)

    This rare dragonfly of large, clean, and medium to slow-running rivers with fine sand, silt, or clay bottoms is currently known in only 3 locations in Canada. It disappeared over 60 years ago from two other rivers. The largest population is subject to a number of threats that are cumulatively leading to a decline in the quality of habitat.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2016)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of assessments conducted under subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2017)

    Biodiversity is rapidly declining worldwide as species become extinct. Today’s extinction rate is estimated to be between 1 000 and 10 000 times higher than the natural rate. Biodiversity is positively related to ecosystem productivity, health and resiliency (i.e. the ability of an ecosystem to respond to changes or disturbances), and, given the interdependency of species, a loss of biodiversity can lead to decreases in ecosystem function and services (e.g. natural processes such as pest control, pollination, coastal wave attenuation, temperature regulation and carbon fixing). These services are important to the health of Canadians, and also have important ties to Canada’s economy. Small changes within an ecosystem resulting in the loss of individuals and species can therefore result in adverse, irreversible and broad-ranging effects. List of Wildlife Species at Risk (referral back to COSEWIC) Order

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 - 2011 (2011)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings during the past year assessing the status or reviewing the classification of a total of 92 wildlife species.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – December 2011 (2011)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by February 8, 2012 for species undergoing normal consultations and by November 8, 2012 for species undergoing extended consultations.