Andiperla willinki is a very rate insect belonging to the order of Plecoptera, commonly known as stoneflies. Its common name is "Patagonian Dragon" (I do not know why).
They are widely distributed around the world and over 1,500 species have been recorded. They are winged insects and belong to one of the most primitive groups of this kind of insect.
Today we are posting about one of these, belonging to the Gripopterygiidae family, the Andiperla willinki or Patagonian Dragon was first described in 1956 by French biologist Aubert Willink, based on a specimen found at the Upsala Glacier in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. (More on Patagonian glaciers Here.)
This creature is indeed incredible because, unlike the other members of the order, (which are winged insects), this one is wholly apterous (has no wings), it does not need them as it is well adapted to its very special environment.
Furthermore it also lacks ocelli (tiny eyes) but it has well developed eyes (large) which help it see in the dimly lit habitat that it has adapted to.
Though it can be found under stones in the Southern Patagonian Andes up to a height of 1,000 m (3,300 ft.),  its most incredible environment is the Southern Ice fields in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. Recently it has also been found in other lakes and glaciers close by such as Moreno and Viedma and in Paine, Chile.
This tiny insect barely 20 mm long (0.8 in.) it lives its whole life within the ice of the Glaciers of the Souhtern Ice Field. It eats the tiny algae that live in the ice.
To avoid freezing, its body has a natural anti-freeze based on glycerol (similar to what is used in our car’s cooling systems to avoid it bursting when temperatures drop below freezing point).
They have the peculiarity of lacking empodia (tiny claws at the tip of their legs), a feature found only in one other stonefly species in the whole world, the R. nudipes. This may be due to the fact that both species live in cold mountainous areas and the lack of empodia may help them conserve heat in their frigid habitat.
A French documentary team found it in the icy water at the Chilean National Park of Torres del Paine, 40 m (130 ft.) below the surface in a crevasse filled with freezing water.
Little is known of them, and further study is necessary.
 Willink, Aubert (1956). Plécoptére nouveau des Andes de Patagonie. Mitteilungen der Schweizerischen Entomologischen Gesellschaft 29 pp. 229-252.
 Mani, S., (1968). Ecology and biogeography of high altitude insects. Springer. v.4. pp.401.
 Documental filmado en patagonia chilena logra doble reconocimiento. 09.11.2005.
 Khoshima Laboratory.
 McLellan, I., D. Rakiuraperla nudipes McLellan 1977.
 Heckman, C., (2003). Encyclopedia of South American aquatic insects: Plecoptera. Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dodrecht. pp.232
Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©