Research Article
Research Article
The dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) of Angola
expand article infoJens Kipping§, Viola Clausnitzer|, Sara R. F. Fernandes Elizalde, Klaas-Douwe B. Dijkstra#¤
‡ BioCart Ökologische Gutachten, Taucha / Leipzig, Germany
§ Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Bernburg, Germany
| Senckenberg Museum for Natural History, Görlitz, Germany
¶ Instituto de Investigação Agronómica, Huambo, Angola
# University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa
¤ Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, Netherlands
Open Access


Prior to 2012, only 158 species of Odonata were known from Angola. Surveys in 2012 and 2013 added 76 species and two further additions in 2016 brought the national total to 236 species. We provide a revised checklist with taxonomic notes and discuss the history of research, the biogeography of the fauna, and the potential for further discoveries. The national total is likely to be above 300 species. This would make Angola one of the richest countries for Odonata in Africa. The endemic species formerly classified in Chlorocypha are transferred to Platycypha.


Até 2012, apenas eram conhecidas 158 espécies de Odonata em Angola. Levantamentos feitos em 2012 e 2013 acrescentaram 76 espécies que, em conjunto com dois novos registos de 2016, elevaram a lista nacional a 236 espécies. Apresentamos uma lista de referência revista, com notas taxonómicas e discussão histórica da investigação, a biogeografia da fauna e o potencial de novas descobertas. É provável que o número total de espécies no país seja superior a 300. Se assim for, Angola será um dos países africanos com maior riqueza em Odonata. As espécies endémicas anteriormente classificadas como Chlorocypha foram transferidas para Platycypha.


Africa, biogeography, checklist, diversity, conservation


África, biogeografia, checklist, diversidade, conservação


Covering nearly 1,250,000 km², Angola is the largest African country not dominated by the Sahara after the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has an accordingly high diversity of habitats, ranging from Namib Desert in the southwest through grassland, woodlands and montane forest to Congolian lowland rainforest in the northeast. Moreover, a great highland of up to 2,620 m asl (above sea level) is contained completely within Angola’s borders, leading to substantial endemism. Therefore, the country is likely to be one of the richest in species in Africa. However, Angola’s biodiversity is very poorly known, with comparatively limited research before independence in 1975 halting altogether in the three decades of unrest that followed. Research coverage is also limited for Odonata (Fig. 1), with much of the north and east never surveyed at all (Clausnitzer et al. 2012). The potentially very species-rich highland catchments of the Congo, Cuanza, Cubango (Okavango) and Zambezi Rivers are almost unknown and may hold many undescribed species. The whole Angolan part of the extensively marshy Cuando River and almost the entire Cuito river system are also unsurveyed.

Figure 1. 

Records of Odonata from Angola before 1950, before 2000 and up to 2016.

History of Odonata research in Angola

Research began in July 1928, when the Swiss zoologist Albert Monard embarked on the first of his two expeditions to Angola, which lasted until February 1929. Monard was a curator at the Natural Museum of La-Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland with a broad interest in nature who mainly collected vertebrates and plants. Ris (1931) identified 27 and described four species from Monard’s first expedition.

With the death of Friedrich Ris, Monard submitted the Odonata from his second expedition (April 1932 to October 1933) to Cynthia Longfield at the British Museum (now the Natural History Museum) in London, who had published several records obtained by Karl Jordan from Mt Moco in 1934 (Longfield 1936). Longfield (1947) identified 77 species from Monard’s new material and described 13 new species and two new genera. She also dealt with the Odonata held at the Dundo Museum in northern Angola, first revising the genus Orthetrum based on the long series available (Longfield 1955) and later listing 61 species from the collection, including three new ones (Longfield 1959).

Pinhey (1961a, b) described five new species of Gomphidae from northern Angola received from A. de Barros Machado of the Dundo Museum. While Longfield (1959)stated that the Dundo collection “shows the usual scarcity of the genera Gomphidae”, Pinhey (1961a) noted it “was particularly notable for the number of Gomphids.” Possibly Machado split the material between the two authors. It is uncertain whether the material was collected in Dundo or only held there, as most records lack details on collector, date and precise locality. However, Pinhey (1961b) did detail collecting localities around Dundo, suggesting that all material came from this part of Lunda Norte Province. The collector was probably Machado himself. No-one has worked on this collection since and its state is thus unknown.

Elliot Pinhey was curator at the National Museum of Zimbabwe from 1955 until 1975 and while he collected intensively in adjacent countries, only visited Angola twice (Vick et al. 2001). In April and May 1963 Pinhey participated in an expedition to north-western Zambia, also visiting an area east of Caianda and the Lutchigena River in Angola directly adjacent to the Ikelenge Pedicle of Zambia, where he recorded 26 species (Pinhey 1964, 1974, 1984). His second excursion into Angola went to an area between Luanda and the Duque de Bragança Falls on the Lucala River (now known as Kalandula Falls) in October 1964 with records of 32 species (Pinhey 1965).

Pinhey further treated the material of three collectors, describing a species in honour of each of them. Edward S. Ross of the California Academy of Sciences collected between Cuchi and Dondo in 1957 and 1958 (Pinhey 1966), the famed expert of mammal behaviour Richard Estes in central Angola in 1970 (Pinhey 1971a), and Ivan Bampton around the Serra da Chela and Tundavala in 1973 (Pinhey 1975). In the 1975 paper he also repeated records from Pinhey (1964, 1965) and Longfield (1947), and provided a gazetteer, causing confusion about the precise locality of some sites. The correct historic collecting sites could be verified with the gazetteer of Mendes et al. (2013).

After Angola’s independence in 1975 there was a long break in field research, with only a few records by various collectors. In January 2009, an expedition led by Brian Huntley visited the Serra da Chela in south-western Angola and the Namib Desert to the south: Warwick Tarboton recorded 47 species of Odonata around Humpata, of which five were recorded in Angola for the first time and one was new to science (Tarboton 2009, Dijkstra et al. 2015).


Jens Kipping surveyed the upper catchment of the Okavango (Cubango) River on the SAREP (Southern African Regional Environmental Program) Expedition from 5 to 22 May 2012 (18 field days). Specimens collected during a second SAREP expedition in April 2013 were also handed to Jens Kipping. Viola Clausnitzer and KD Dijkstra in collaboration with the Universidade Kimpa Vita (Uíge) and the Technical University of Dresden (Germany) surveyed around Uíge, Negage and N’dalantando in northern Angola in the wet season from 13 November to 1 December 2012 (19 days). Dijkstra revisited this area in the dry season, from 26 September to 5 October 2013 (10 days). Sara Fernandes Elizalde and Chris Hines provided photographic records in 2016. Adult dragonflies were usually caught with an aerial net and either identified in the field using Dijkstra and Clausnitzer (2014) or collected and identified later in the laboratory.

The authors also examined the Angolan collections and type material in the Natural History Museum in London, the National History Museum of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo (Dijkstra 2007a, b), the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium and the Instituto de Investigação Agronómica in Huambo, Angola. All records are kept in the Odonata Database of Africa – ODA (Kipping et al. 2009) and mapped per species on African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online – ADDO (

Specimens are currently at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, The Netherlands, including type material of eight species described by Dijkstra et al. (2015). Material must become available for study in the country of origin. Currently no facilities for permanent preservation and research of entomological specimens exist in Angola. As international scientific collaboration continues, natural history collections should be developed locally to receive and study this material.

The All Odonata Barcode Initiative at Naturalis Biodiversity Center generated sequences of the mitochondrial COI gene of the 4,260 specimens from sub-Saharan Africa, of which about 400 were from Angola. See Dijkstra et al. (2015) for details, including on DNA extraction, amplification (including primer combinations) and sequencing.


The first SAREP Expedition yielded 87 species, 17 of them new to the country list and two new to science (Kipping 2012, Dijkstra et al. 2015). One additional species new for the country came from the second SAREP Expedition. The first expedition to Uíge, Negage and N’dalantando resulted in 138 species, of which 43 were recorded for the first time in Angola and five were new to science. The second visit produced 86 species, adding another 15 to the national list.

With the surveys in 2012 and 2013 and a careful review of the historic data, the known odonate fauna of Angola has increased from 158 species in the year 2011 to 234 species in 2013: an increase of about one-third with only 47 days in the field. Two species were added in 2016: Chris Hines photographed Tetrathemis camerunensis in Bengo Province and some male specimens of Bradinoypga strachani from N’dalantando were found in the collection of the Instituto de Investigação Agronómica in Huambo. ODA now holds 2,820 Angolan records from more than 250 localities.

The checklist of the Odonata of Angola is provided in Table 1, with notes on several species provided in the discussion. Table 2 lists 20 species that were removed from the country list. These were mentioned in one or more historic papers but represent likely misidentifications, taxonomic mix-ups, synonyms, etc. Table 3 lists species that should be present although reliable records are lacking. These are mostly found in border-rivers, especially on the well-studied Namibian bank of the Okavango (Suhling and Martens 2007). Many additional species occur in the well-surveyed Ikelenge Pedicle around the Zambezi source in north-western Zambia (Pinhey 1984, own surveys) immediately on the Angola border, but listing those species as likely to occur in the neighbouring Moxico Province of Angola would be speculative.

Table 1.

Checklist of Odonata recorded from Angola.

Species English Name V RL
Lestes amicus Martin, 1910 Yellow-winged Spreadwing 1 LC
Lestes dissimulans Fraser, 1955 Cryptic Spreadwing 1 LC
Lestes pallidus Rambur, 1842 Pallid Spreadwing 1 LC
Lestes pinheyi Fraser, 1955 Pinhey’s Spreadwing 1 LC
Lestes plagiatus (Burmeister, 1839) Highland Spreadwing 1 LC
Lestes tridens McLachlan, 1895 Spotted Spreadwing 1 LC
Lestes virgatus (Burmeister, 1839) Smoky Spreadwing 3 LC
Phaon camerunensis Sjöstedt, 1900 Emerald Demoiselle 1! LC
Phaon iridipennis (Burmeister, 1839) Glistening Demoiselle 1 LC
Sapho orichalcea McLachlan, 1869 # Mountain Bluewing 1! LC
Umma electa Longfield, 1933 Metallic Sparklewing 1 LC
Umma femina Longfield, 1947 Angola Sparklewing 1** VU
Umma longistigma (Selys, 1869) Bare-bellied Sparklewing 1 LC
Umma mesostigma (Selys, 1879) Hairy-bellied Sparklewing 1! LC
Chlorocypha cancellata (Selys, 1879) Exquisite Jewel 1! LC
Chlorocypha curta (Hagen in Selys, 1853) Blue-tipped Jewel 1! LC
Chlorocypha cyanifrons (Selys, 1873) Blue-fronted Jewel 1! LC
Chlorocypha fabamacula Pinhey, 1961 Spotted Jewel 1 LC
Chlorocypha victoriae (Förster, 1914) Victoria’s Jewel 1 LC
Platycypha angolensis Longfield, 1959 Angola Dancing Jewel 1** NT
Platycypha bamptoni (Pinhey, 1975) # Highland Blue Jewel 1** NE
Platycypha cf. bamptoni (Pinhey, 1975) # (near Highland Blue Jewel) 1!** NE
Platycypha caligata (Selys, 1853) # Common Dancing Jewel 2 LC
Platycypha crocea (Longfield, 1947) # Angola Blue Jewel 1** LC
Platycypha rubriventris (Pinhey, 1975) # Red-bellied Blue Jewel 2** DD
Platycypha rufitibia (Pinhey, 1961) Beautiful Jewel 1 LC
Allocnemis nigripes (Selys, 1886) Rainbow Yellowwing 1 LC
Allocnemis pauli (Longfield, 1936) Orange-tipped Yellowwing 1! LC
Copera congolensis (Martin, 1908) Congo Featherleg 1! LC
Elattoneura acuta Kimmins, 1938 Red Threadtail 1! LC
Elattoneura cellularis (Grünberg, 1902) # Zambezi Threadtail 3 LC
Elattoneura cf. glauca (Selys, 1860) # (near Common Threadtail) 1 LC
Elattoneura lliba Legrand, 1985 Eastern Stream Threadtail 1! LC
Elattoneura tarbotonorum Dijkstra, 2015 # Stout Threadtail 2** DD
Mesocnemis cf. singularis Karsch, 1891 # (near Common Riverjack) 1! NE
Aciagrion africanum Martin, 1908 Blue Slim 1 LC
Aciagrion macrootithenae Pinhey, 1972 Awl-tipped Slim 3 DD
Aciagrion nodosum (Pinhey, 1964) Cryptic Slim 1! LC
Aciagrion rarum (Longfield, 1947) Tiny Slim 2 DD
Aciagrion steeleae Kimmins, 1955 Swamp Slim 3 LC
Aciagrion zambiense Pinhey, 1972 Zambia Slim 3 DD
Africallagma fractum (Ris, 1921) Southern Slender Bluet 1 LC
Africallagma glaucum (Burmeister, 1839) Swamp Bluet 1 LC
Africallagma vaginale (Sjöstedt, 1917) Forest Bluet 1! LC
Agriocnemis angolensis Longfield, 1947 Blue Wisp 1* LC
Agriocnemis bumhilli Kipping, Suhling & Martens, 2012 Bumhill Wisp 1!* LC
Agriocnemis canuango Dijkstra, 2015 Bog Wisp 1!** DD
Agriocnemis exilis Selys, 1872 Little Wisp 1 LC
Agriocnemis forcipata Le Roi, 1915 Greater Pincer-tailed Wisp 1 LC
Agriocnemis cf. maclachlani Selys, 1877 # (near Forest Wisp) 1! LC
Agriocnemis ruberrima Balinsky, 1961 Orange Wisp 1! LC
Agriocnemis toto Dijkstra, 2015 Bruno’s Wisp 1!** DD
Agriocnemis victoria Fraser, 1928 Lesser Pincer-tailed Wisp 1 LC
Azuragrion nigridorsum (Selys, 1876) Sailing Bluet 1 LC
Ceriagrion annulatum Fraser, 1955 Green-eyed Citril 1! LC
Ceriagrion bakeri Fraser, 1941 Blue-fronted Citril 3 LC
Ceriagrion corallinum Campion, 1914 Green-fronted Citril 1 LC
Ceriagrion glabrum (Burmeister, 1839) Common Citril 1 LC
Ceriagrion junceum Dijkstra & Kipping, 2015 Spikerush Citril 1! LC
Ceriagrion platystigma Fraser, 1941 Variable Citril 1 LC
Ceriagrion sakejii Pinhey, 1963 Cream-sided Citril 1! LC
Ceriagrion suave Ris, 1921 Plain Citril 1 LC
Ceriagrion whellani Longfield, 1952 Yellow-faced Citril 1! LC
Ischnura senegalensis (Rambur, 1842) Tropical Bluetail 1 LC
Pinheyagrion angolicum (Pinhey, 1966) Pinhey’s Bluet 1 LC
Pseudagrion (A) angolense Selys, 1876 Angola Sprite 1** NT
Pseudagrion (A) coeruleipunctum Pinhey, 1964 Pretty Sprite 3 LC
Pseudagrion (A) estesi Pinhey, 1971 Estes’s Sprite 1** LC
Pseudagrion (A) fisheri Pinhey, 1961 Dark-tailed Sprite 3 LC
Pseudagrion (A) greeni Pinhey, 1961 Clasper-tailed Sprite 1 LC
Pseudagrion (A) inconspicuum Ris, 1931 Little Sprite 1 LC
Pseudagrion (A) kersteni Gerstäcker, 1869 Powder-faced Sprite 1 LC
Pseudagrion (A) kibalense Longfield, 1959 Forest Sprite 1 LC
Pseudagrion (A) makabusiense Pinhey, 1950 Green-striped Sprite 3 LC
Pseudagrion (A) melanicterum Selys, 1876 Farmbush Sprite 1 LC
Pseudagrion (A) salisburyense Ris, 1921 Slate Sprite 1 LC
Pseudagrion (A) sarepi Kipping & Dijkstra, 2015 Sarep Sprite 1!** DD
Pseudagrion (A) serrulatum Karsch, 1894 Superb Sprite 1! LC
Pseudagrion (A) simonae Legrand, 1987 Wide-striped Sprite 1! LC
Pseudagrion (B) acaciae Förster, 1906 Acacia Sprite 1 LC
Pseudagrion (B) coeleste Longfield, 1947 Catshead Sprite 1 LC
Pseudagrion (B) deningi Pinhey, 1961 Dark Sprite 1! LC
Pseudagrion (B) dundoense Longfield, 1959 Dundo Sprite 2** DD
Pseudagrion (B) glaucescens Selys, 1876 Blue-green Sprite 1 LC
Pseudagrion (B) hamoni Fraser, 1955 Swarthy Sprite 1! LC
Pseudagrion (B) helenae Balinsky, 1964 Little Blue Sprite 1! LC
Pseudagrion (B) isidromorai Compte Sart, 1967 Large Blue Sprite 1! LC
Pseudagrion (B) massaicum Sjöstedt, 1909 Masai Sprite 1 LC
Pseudagrion (B) rufostigma Longfield, 1947 Ruby Sprite 1 LC
Pseudagrion (B) sjoestedti Förster, 1906 Variable Sprite 1 LC
Pseudagrion (B) sublacteum (Karsch, 1893) Cherry-eye Sprite 1 LC
Afroaeschna scotias (Pinhey, 1952) Shadow Hawker 1! LC
Anax congoliath Fraser, 1953 Dark Emperor 1! LC
Anax ephippiger (Burmeister, 1839) Vagrant Emperor 1 LC
Anax imperator Leach, 1815 Blue Emperor 1 LC
Anax speratus Hagen, 1867 Eastern Orange Emperor 1 LC
Anax tristis Hagen, 1867 Black Emperor 1 LC
Gynacantha (A) sextans McLachlan, 1896 Dark-rayed Duskhawker 3 LC
Gynacantha (A) vesiculata Karsch, 1891 Lesser Girdled Duskhawker 3 LC
Gynacantha (B) manderica Grünberg, 1902 Little Duskhawker 3 LC
Heliaeschna fuliginosa Karsch, 1893 Black-banded Duskhawker 1 LC
Heliaeschna ugandica McLachlan, 1896 Uganda Duskhawker 3 LC
Pinheyschna rileyi (Calvert, 1892) Bullseye Hawker 3 LC
Crenigomphus cf. cornutus Pinhey, 1956 # (near Horned Talontail) 1! LC
Diastatomma selysi Schouteden, 1934 Common Hoetail 3 LC
Diastatomma soror Schouteden, 1934 Painted Hoetail 3 LC
Gomphidia quarrei (Schouteden, 1934) Southern Fingertail 3 LC
Ictinogomphus dundoensis Pinhey, 1961 Swamp Tigertail 1 LC
Ictinogomphus ferox (Rambur, 1842) Common Tigertail 1 LC
Ictinogomphus regisalberti (Schouteden, 1934) Congo Tigertail 3 LC
Lestinogomphus calcaratus Dijkstra, 2015 Spurred Fairytail 1! LC
Libyogomphus tenaculatus Fraser, 1926 Large Horntail 1! LC
Mastigogomphus chapini (Klots, 1944) # Western Snorkeltail 2 LC
Microgomphus cf. nyassicus (Grünberg, 1902) # (near Eastern Scissortail) 1! LC
Neurogomphus alius Cammaerts, 2004 Large Siphontail 1! LC
Notogomphus kimpavita Dijkstra & Clausnitzer, 2015 Angola Longleg 1!** DD
Notogomphus praetorius (Selys, 1878) Yellowjack Longleg 2 LC
Notogomphus cf. spinosus (Karsch, 1890) # (near Jungle Longleg) 1! LC
Onychogomphus rossii Pinhey, 1966 Angola Claspertail 2** DD
Onychogomphus cf. styx Pinhey, 1961# (near Northern Dark Claspertail) 1! LC
Paragomphus abnormis (Karsch, 1890) Humdrum Hooktail 1! LC
Paragomphus cf. darwalli Dijkstra, Mézière & Papazian, 2015 # (near Darwall’s Hooktail) 1! DD
Paragomphus genei (Selys, 1841) Common Hooktail 1 LC
Paragomphus machadoi Pinhey, 1961 Forest Hooktail 2 LC
Paragomphus cf. nigroviridis Cammaerts, 1969 # (near Black-and-green Hooktail) 1! LC
Phyllogomphus annulus Klots, 1944 Crested Leaftail 1 LC
Phyllogomphus selysi Schouteden, 1933 Bold Leaftail 3 LC
Phyllomacromia aureozona (Pinhey, 1966) Golden-banded Cruiser 1! LC
Phyllomacromia contumax Selys, 1879 Two-banded Cruiser 1! LC
Phyllomacromia hervei (Legrand, 1980) River Cruiser 1! LC
Phyllomacromia melania (Selys, 1871) Sombre Cruiser 1 LC
Phyllomacromia overlaeti (Schouteden, 1934) Clubbed Cruiser 3 LC
Phyllomacromia paula (Karsch, 1892) Greater Double-spined Cruiser 3 LC
Phyllomacromia picta (Hagen in Selys, 1871) Darting Cruiser 3 LC
Phyllomacromia unifasciata (Fraser, 1954) Golden-eyed Cruiser 3 LC
Acisoma inflatum Selys, 1882 Stout Pintail 1 LC
Acisoma trifidum Kirby, 1889 Pied Pintail 1 LC
Aethiothemis bequaerti Ris, 1919 Skimmer-like Flasher 1 LC
Aethiothemis ellioti (Lieftinck, 1969) Plump Flasher 1! LC
Aethiothemis mediofasciata Ris, 1931 # Orange Flasher 2 LC
Aethiothemis solitaria Martin, 1908 Pearly Flasher 1 LC
Aethriamanta rezia Kirby, 1889 Pygmy Basker 1 LC
Brachythemis lacustris (Kirby, 1889) Red Groundling 1 LC
Brachythemis leucosticta (Burmeister, 1839) Southern Banded Groundling 1 LC
Bradinopyga strachani (Kirby, 1900) Red Rockdweller 2 LC
Chalcostephia flavifrons Kirby, 1889 Inspector 1! LC
Crocothemis brevistigma Pinhey, 1961 Spotted Scarlet 1! LC
Crocothemis divisa Baumann, 1898 Rock Scarlet 1 LC
Crocothemis erythraea (Brullé, 1832) Broad Scarlet 1 LC
Crocothemis sanguinolenta (Burmeister, 1839) Little Scarlet 1 LC
Cyanothemis simpsoni Ris, 1915 Bluebolt 1! LC
Diplacodes deminuta Lieftinck, 1969 Little Percher 1 LC
Diplacodes lefebvrii (Rambur, 1842) Black Percher 1 LC
Diplacodes luminans (Karsch, 1893) Barbet Percher 1 LC
Diplacodes pumila Dijkstra, 2006 Dwarf Percher 1! LC
Eleuthemis eogaster Dijkstra, 2015 Sunrise Firebelly 1!** DD
Eleuthemis libera Dijkstra & Kipping, 2015 Free Firebelly 1! DD
Hadrothemis camarensis (Kirby, 1889) Saddled Jungleskimmer 3 LC
Hadrothemis coacta (Karsch, 1891) Robust Jungleskimmer 1! LC
Hadrothemis defecta (Karsch, 1891) Scarlet Jungleskimmer 3 LC
Hemistigma albipunctum (Rambur, 1842) African Piedspot 1 LC
Malgassophlebia bispina Fraser, 1958 Ringed Leaftipper 1! LC
Micromacromia camerunica Karsch, 1890 Stream Micmac 1! LC
Micromacromia flava (Longfield, 1947) Angola Micmac 1** NT
Neodythemis afra (Ris, 1909) Seepage Junglewatcher 1! LC
Neodythemis klingi (Karsch, 1890) Stream Junglewatcher 1! LC
Nesciothemis cf. farinosa (Förster, 1898) # (near Eastern Blacktail) 1 LC
Nesciothemis fitzgeraldi Longfield, 1955 Lesser Peppertail 1! LC
Notiothemis robertsi Fraser, 1944 Western Forestwatcher 1! LC
Olpogastra lugubris Karsch, 1895 Bottletail 1 LC
Orthetrum abbotti Calvert, 1892 Little Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum austeni (Kirby, 1900) Giant Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum brachiale (Palisot de Beauvois, 1817) Banded Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum caffrum (Burmeister, 1839) Two-striped Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum chrysostigma (Burmeister, 1839) Epaulet Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum guineense Ris, 1910 Guinea Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum hintzi Schmidt, 1951 Dark-shouldered Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum icteromelas Ris, 1910 Spectacled Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum julia Kirby, 1900 Julia Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum machadoi Longfield, 1955 Highland Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum macrostigma Longfield, 1947 Sharkfin Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum microstigma Ris, 1911 Farmbush Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum monardi Schmidt, 1951 Woodland Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum robustum Balinsky, 1965 Robust Skimmer 1! LC
Orthetrum saegeri Pinhey, 1966 Mushroom Skimmer 1! LC
Orthetrum stemmale (Burmeister, 1839) Bold Skimmer 1 LC
Orthetrum trinacria (Selys, 1841) Long Skimmer 1 LC
Oxythemis phoenicosceles Ris, 1910 Pepperpants 1! LC
Palpopleura albifrons Legrand, 1979 Pale-faced Widow 1! LC
Palpopleura deceptor (Calvert, 1899) Deceptive Widow 3 LC
Palpopleura jucunda (Rambur, 1842) Yellow-veined Widow 1 LC
Palpopleura lucia (Drury, 1773) Lucia Widow 1 LC
Palpopleura portia (Drury, 1773) Portia Widow 1 LC
Pantala flavescens (Fabricius, 1798) Wandering Glider 1 LC
Porpax asperipes Karsch, 1896 Powdered Pricklyleg 1 LC
Porpax risi Pinhey, 1958 Highland Pricklyleg 1 LC
Rhyothemis fenestrina (Rambur, 1842) Skylight Flutterer 1 LC
Rhyothemis mariposa Ris, 1913 Butterfly Flutterer 2 LC
Rhyothemis semihyalina (Desjardins, 1832) Phantom Flutterer 1! LC
Sympetrum fonscolombii (Selys, 1840) Nomad 2 LC
Tetrathemis camerunensis (Sjöstedt, 1900) Forest Elf 2 LC
Tetrathemis fraseri Legrand, 1977 Treefall Elf 1! LC
Tetrathemis polleni (Selys, 1869) Black-splashed Elf 2 LC
Thermochoria equivocata Kirby, 1889 Dash-winged Piedface 1! LC
Tholymis tillarga (Fabricius, 1798) Twister 1 LC
Tramea basilaris (Palisot de Beauvois, 1817) Keyhole Glider 1 LC
Trithemis aconita Lieftinck, 1969 Halfshade Dropwing 1! LC
Trithemis annulata (Palisot de Beauvois, 1807) Violet Dropwing 1 LC
Trithemis anomala Pinhey, 1956 Striped Dropwing 1! LC
Trithemis apicalis (Fraser, 1954) Furtive Dropwing 1! LC
Trithemis arteriosa (Burmeister, 1839) Red-veined Dropwing 1 LC
Trithemis basitincta Ris, 1912 Jungle Dropwing 1! LC
Trithemis dichroa Karsch, 1893 Black Dropwing 1 LC
Trithemis dorsalis (Rambur, 1842) Highland Dropwing 1 LC
Trithemis cf. dubia (Fraser, 1954) # (near Sleek Dropwing) 1! DD
Trithemis furva Karsch, 1899 Navy Dropwing 1 LC
Trithemis imitata Pinhey, 1961 # Northern Fluttering Dropwing 1! LC
Trithemis integra Dijkstra, 2007 Albertine Dropwing 1! LC
Trithemis kirbyi Selys, 1891 Orange-winged Dropwing 1 LC
Trithemis leakeyi (Pinhey, 1956) Mealy Dropwing 1! LC
Trithemis monardi Ris, 1931 # Southern Fluttering Dropwing 1 LC
Trithemis nuptialis Karsch, 1894 Hairy-legged Dropwing 1 LC
Trithemis palustris Damm & Hadrys, 2009 # Marsh Dropwing 1! LC
Trithemis pluvialis Förster, 1906 Russet Dropwing 1 LC
Trithemis pruinata Karsch, 1899 Cobalt Dropwing 1! LC
Trithemis stictica (Burmeister, 1839) Jaunty Dropwing 1 LC
Trithemis werneri Ris, 1912 Elegant Dropwing 3 LC
Urothemis assignata (Selys, 1872) Red Basker 1 LC
Urothemis edwardsii (Selys, 1849) Blue Basker 1 LC
Zygonoides fuelleborni (Grünberg, 1902) Southern Riverking 3 LC
Zygonyx denticulatus Dijkstra & Kipping, 2015 Pale Cascader 1! LC
Zygonyx eusebia (Ris, 1912) Imperial Cascader 3 LC
Zygonyx flavicosta (Sjöstedt, 1900) Ensign Cascader 1 LC
Zygonyx natalensis (Martin, 1900) Blue Cascader 1 LC
Zygonyx regisalberti (Schouteden, 1934) Regal Cascader 1 LC
Zygonyx torridus (Kirby, 1889) Ringed Cascader 1 LC
Table 2.

Odonata species that have been removed from the list for Angola.

Species English name Reason for exclusion
Elattoneura frenulata (Hagen in Selys, 1860) # Sooty Theadtail See discussion.
Mesocnemis singularis Karsch, 1891 # Common Riverjack See discussion.
Aciagrion gracile (Sjöstedt, 1909) Graceful Slim Pinhey (1972) reidentified a series collected at Caianda (Pinhey 1964) as A. macrootithenae.
Agriocnemis zerafica Le Roi, 1915 Sahel Wisp Sahelian species unlikely to occur in Angola; probably misidentification.
Ceriagrion varians (Martin, 1908) Orange-red Citril Taxonomic confusion with C. platystigma; see Dijkstra et al. (2015).
Pseudagrion (A) hageni Karsch, 1893 Painted Sprite All Angolan records might refer to P. angolense Selys, 1876 as that was formerly considered a synonym of P. hageni, although the latter occurs in DRC and Zambia close to the Angolan border.
Pseudagrion (A) spernatum Selys, 1881 Upland Sprite Three records under the synonym Pseudagrion gerstaeckeri Karsch, 1899 from highlands around Huambo are far outside the known range. The species might occur near the Zambian border.
Pseudagrion (A) monardi Longfield, 1947 - Synonym of P. angolense Selys, 1876.
Crenigomphus hartmanni (Förster, 1898) Clubbed Talontail A female from Cubango (Longfield 1947) cannot be reliably identified and falls outside the known range.
Gomphidia bredoi (Schouteden, 1934) Northern Fingertail A female from Dundo (Pinhey 1961a) cannot be reliably identified and falls outside the known range.
Microgomphus bivittatus Pinhey, 1961 - Treated as a synonym to Mastigogomphus chapini (see discussion).
Paragomphus cognatus (Rambur, 1842) # Rock Hooktail See discussion.
Phyllogomphus dundomajoricus Fraser, 1957 - Synonym of Phyllogomphus annulus (Dijkstra et al. 2006).
Phyllogomphus dundominusculus Fraser, 1957 - Synonym of Phyllogomphus annulus (Dijkstra et al. 2006).
Phyllogomphus latifasciae Pinhey, 1961 - Synonym of Phyllogomphus selysi (Dijkstra et al. 2006).
Phyllomacromia aequatorialis Martin, 1906 - A small series from Dundo (Pinhey 1961a) of this poorly known species may have belonged to another species such as P. hervei.
Acisoma panorpoides Rambur, 1842 Grizzled Pintail Mens et al. (2016) showed that A. panorpoides is an Asian species replaced in continental African by two species of which A. inflatum has been recorded in Angola.
Eleuthemis buettikoferi Ris, 1910 Western Firebelly Genus thought to be monotypic until new species were described by Dijkstra et al. (2015), of which two from Angola. E. buettikoferi is exclusively West African.
Trithemis donaldsoni (Calvert, 1899) Denim Dropwing The record of two females from Dundo (Longfield 1959) is doubtful as this sex is not easily identified and the location falls outside the species’ known range.
Zygonoides occidentis (Ris, 1912) Congo Riverking Known from the Congo River basin. What Longfield (1947) mentioned as Olpogastra fuelleborni occidentis from Kakindo (Caquindo) is most likely Zygonoides fuelleborni.
Zygonyx speciosus Karsch, 1891 Specious Cascader A rainforest species known mainly from Cameroon and confused with Z. regisalberti.
Table 3.

Odonata recorded from bordering rivers that most likely occur in Angola too.

Species English name Nearest occurrence
Mesocnemis singularis Karsch, 1891 Common Riverjack Cunene, Okavango and Kwando Rivers in northern Namibia.
Africallagma subtile (Ris, 1921) Fragile Bluet Okavango and Oshikango Rivers in northern Namibia.
Agriocnemis gratiosa Gerstäcker, 1891 Gracious Wisp Okavango and Kwando Rivers in Namibian Caprivi Strip.
Pseudagrion (A) spernatum Selys, 1881 Upland Sprite At Jimbe and other rivers in Ikelenge Pedicle of north-western Zambia.
Pseudagrion (B) assegaii Pinhey, 1950 Assegai Sprite Kwando River in Namibian Caprivi Strip.
Pseudagrion (B) sudanicum Le Roi, 1915 Blue-sided Sprite Okavango and Kwando Rivers in Namibian Caprivi Strip.
Anax bangweuluensis Kimmins, 1955 Swamp Emperor Common in the Okavango Delta (Kipping 2010) and also known from the Okavango and Kwando Rivers in the Namibian Caprivi.
Crenigomphus kavangoensis Suhling & Marais, 2010 Kavango Talontail Okavango River in Namibia.
Lestinogomphus angustus Martin, 1911 Common Fairytail Cunene, Okavango and Kwando Rivers in northern Namibia.
Lestinogomphus silkeae Kipping, 2010 Silke’s Fairytail One locality on the southern bank of the Okavango River near Rundu, Namibia.
Mastigogomphus cf. dissimilis (Cammaerts, 2004) (near Southern Snokeltail) Larvae found at two places on the Namibian bank of the Okavango (Suhling and Martens 2007).
Paragomphus cataractae Pinhey, 1963 Cataract Hooktail Waterfalls and rapids of the Cunene and Okavango Rivers in northern Namibia.
Neurogomphus cocytius Cammaerts, 2004 Kokytos Siphontail Okavango River in northern Namibia.
Paragomphus elpidius (Ris, 1921) Corkscrew Hooktail Cunene, Okavango and Kwando Rivers in northern Namibia and the Ikelenge Pedicle of Zambia.
Paragomphus sabicus Pinhey, 1950 Flapper Hooktail Okavango and Kwando Rivers in northern Namibia.
Parazyxomma flavicans (Martin, 1908) Banded Duskdarter Okavango and Kwando Rivers in northern Namibia.
Trithemis aequalis Lieftinck, 1969 Swamp Dropwing Okavango and Kwando Rivers in the Namibian Caprivi.
Trithemis donaldsoni (Calvert, 1899) Denim Dropwing Okavango and Cunene Rivers in northern Namibia.
Trithemis hecate Ris, 1912 Silhouette Dropwing Common along the Cunene, Okavango and Kwando Rivers in northern Namibia.
Trithemis morrisoni Damm & Hadrys, 2009 Rapids Dropwing Okavango and Kwando Rivers in the Namibian Caprivi (see note on T. palustris above).
Trithetrum navasi (Lacroix, 1921) Fiery Darter Cunene, Okavango and Kwando Rivers in northern Namibia.


Taxonomic comments

Sapho orichalcea – This species has been separated from S. gloriosa McLachlan, 1873 by the absence of a matt band on the otherwise wholly dark wings of both sexes (Pinhey 1971b). However, this band’s extent and position is variable and the validity of these species in untested (Dijkstra unpub.). Angolan populations lack the band, consistent with S. orichalcea as currently defined.

Chlorocypha and PlatycyphaPlatycypha Fraser, 1949 is distinguished from Chlorocypha Fraser, 1928 only by the largely coloured and often widened male tibiae (Dijkstra and Clausnitzer 2014). However, COI sequences indicate that the blue Angolan species classified as Chlorocypha (bamptoni, crocea, rubriventris and a possible fourth species) and Platycypha angolensis (formerly a subspecies of P. caligata, see below) are closer to each other than to any Chlorocypha species, grouping nearer Platycypha (Dijkstra unpubl.). While P. angolensis (Fig. 6a) has legs typical of Platycypha, the blue Angola “Chlorocypha” males have black tibiae with white anterior faces, found also in many Chlorocypha species, but lack the yellow to red tibial markings found in other Platycypha. However, this area is paler than the femora and tarsi in females and fresh males of bamptoni and crocea. While the tibiae appear slender, those of the three species examined are actually expanded slightly and more than in Platycypha picta (Pinhey, 1962) and P. rufitibia. The black on the dorsum of the second abdominal segment (S2) shifted centrally onto the segment and covering its full extent also recalls typical Platycypha. Females have the black line on the entire dorsal abdominal carina present in all Platycypha but rare in Chlorocypha. The male of rubriventris has a red wash on the sides and underside of the thorax and abdomen, which is common in Platycypha but not found in Chlorocypha. Finally the resting behaviour with exposed tibiae as shown in Figure 5b is also more typical of Platycypha than Chlorocypha (A. Günther in litt.). It thus seems warranted to transfer P. bamptoni, P. crocea and P. rubriventris to Platycypha (new combinations). Separating Platycypha may make Chlorocypha paraphyletic, but the species transfer itself does not affect that.

Platycypha angolensis and P. caligata – While described as a subspecies of P. caligata, COI sequences of angolensis are nearer (but not identical) to those of crocea and cf. bamptoni than typical caligata from eastern and southern Afrca. Moreover, angolensis males have the thorax sides greenish with hardly a red tinge at maturity, the fore tibiae more abruptly widened at the base, the (especially hind) femora apically reddish and not contrasting with the tibiae, and black apical bars present on the abdominal segments up to S6 rather than S4 or S5. P. angolensis is thus treated as good species, which is widespread on and around the Angolan plateau. True P. caligata appears to extend into Angola from Zambia.

Platycypha bamptoni, Platycypha cf. bamptoni and P. crocea – The former was described as a subspecies of the latter but is easily separated in the field by its larger size, more robust build and distinct thoracic and abdominal markings. We propose to treat them as distinct species. Specimens like P. bamptoni from the upper Cubango differ from those of Tundavala and might represent an undescribed species.

Platycypha rubriventris – This species is only known from two males collected in 1965 at Teixeira de Sousa in north-eastern Angola. This should refer to the modern town of Luau on the DRC border, although its altitude (about 1,000 m) and location well to the east of the central plateau are surprising for an Angolan endemic.

Elattoneura cellularis, E. frenulata and E. tarbotonorumPinhey (1961b) reported a specimen from Lóvua near the Zambian border in eastern Angola as E. frenulata. The latter is confined to the Cape of South Africa, an error he corrected with the description of E. tropicalis Pinhey, 1974. That species, common in Zambia adjacent to Angola, was synonymised with E. cellularis by Dijkstra (2007b). Pinhey’s (1975) record of E. frenulata from Serra da Chela, however, pertains to the recently described Angolan endemic E. tarbotonorum.

Elattoneura cf. glaucaDijkstra et al. (2015) showed that E. glauca is genetically heterogeneous, specimens from Angola being most distinct and closer to specimens identified as E. cellularis from Katanga and Zambia. E. glauca males collected near Kinshasa, directly north of Angola, differ in penis morphology from typical East African males (Dijkstra unpubl.). As with other widespread species of southern and eastern Africa like Platycypha angolensis and Nesciothemis farinosa (see below), the geographically relatively isolated populations in the west may represent a distinct taxon.

Mesocnemis cf. singularisLongfield (1947) and Pinhey (1965) reported a female of M. singularis from near Cubango in 1932. However, we doubt the identification because we found a species at localities across Angola that differs from typical M. singularis by the COI sequences and male appendages. Similar males are known from Gabon and Cameroon. Preliminary data suggest these and presumed M. singularis form a complex of three or more species (Dijkstra unpubl.).

Agriocnemis cf. maclachlani – Females in this genus are difficult to identify morphologically. The COI sequence of one collected near Uíge is nearest (but not identical to) that of males of A. maclachlani from central and western Africa.

Crenigomphus cf. cornutus – Females of this genus are difficult to identify. Those collected recently near N’dalantando and Cuchi are morphologically similar to females caught in copula with males of C. cornutus in Zambia close to the Angolan border.

Mastigogomphus chapiniPinhey (1961b) described Microgomphus bivittatus from a female from Dundo. Dijkstra (2007a) suggested that it might belong to Lestinogomphus, but Pinhey’s drawings actually match the female of Mastigogomphus chapini and is considered synonymous (Dijkstra et al. 2015).

Microgomphus cf. nyassicusMicrogomphus identification is uncertain as long as the status of the potentially synonymous M. schoutedeni Fraser, 1949 is unresolved.

Notogomphus cf. spinosus – The larvae of this genus have not been treated taxonomically. The COI sequences of two collected near Uíge are nearest (but not identical to) those of six adults of N. spinosus from Gabon.

Onychogomphus cf. styx – The taxonomy of the Afrotropical species placed in Onychogomphus is problematic, especially the dark species (Dijkstra 2007a). O. seydeli (Schouteden, 1934) from Zambia and Katanga and O. styx known mainly from Uganda cannot be separated reliably at present (Dijkstra and Clausnitzer 2014). Identification of Angolan specimens thus awaits revision of the group.

Paragomphus cognatus – Despite progress made by Dijkstra et al. (2015), the taxonomy of the cognatus-group of Paragomphus is problematic: especially older records of P. cognatus cannot be considered reliable, such as a female from Ebanga (Longfield 1945). Longfield (1959) stated that a male P. cognatus from Dundo differed from (topotypical) South African specimens by its markings, suggesting it belonged to another species. Pinhey (1961a) described P. machadoi from the same collection, but the holotype’s collection dates differ from Longfield’s (1959) male. Pinhey also mentioned P. alluaudi (Martin, 1915) from Dundo, but that is an eastern African species. Possibly he had the similar P. abnormis (Karsch, 1890) before him, which we recorded recently near Uíge. True P. cognatus is known from the Okavango and Cunene Rivers in northern Namibia and thus expected in southern Angola (Suhling and Martens 2007).

Paragomphus cf. darwalli and P. cf. nigroviridis – The larvae of this genus have not been treated taxonomically. The COI sequence of one larva collected near Uíge is nearest (but not identical to) that of ten adults described recently as P. darwalli from Gabon, while another from there is nearest (but not identical to) eight adults identified as P. nigroviridis from Liberia, Gabon and DRC (Dijkstra et al. 2015).

Aethiothemis mediofasciata – This species was described from a single female collected by Monard at Chimporo in southern Angola in 1928. While the holotype agrees with females associated with a species found from Liberia to Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville, the recent rediscovery of A. gamblesi (Lieftinck, 1969) in Zambia casts doubt on its taxonomic status. Males are almost identical, the abdomen being orange with maturity in A. mediofasciata (as now known) and grey pruinose in A. gamblesi. No characters to separate females are known as yet. The Angolan type locality is highly isolated: 1,300 km south of the nearest recorded orange male and 900 km west of the nearest pruinose male. Likely only further records of males from Angola can resolve the issue.

Nesciothemis cf. farinosa – Large black-tipped Nesciothemis are currently classified as two species that differ mainly in the extent of pruinosity on the mature male abdomen: at most to the base of S4 in N. pujoli Pinhey, 1971 from western Africa, but up to the very base of S7 in N. farinosa from southern and eastern Africa, although usually it does not extend beyond S5 and (more rarely) S6. However, in Angola and adjacent Namibia and Botswana mature males invariably have even the entire dorsum of S7 pruinose and sometimes the extreme base of S8 as well. COI sequences of Angolan specimens differ more from those of both N. pujoli and N. farinosa sampled across Africa, than these two differ from each other (Dijkstra unpubl.). Thus, an unnamed taxon may be present in south-western Africa.

Trithemis cf. dubia – Males from eastern Angola and Zambia differ in the shape of the hamule from those collected in Gabon, while the thoracic pattern differs from the female holotype of T. dubia from Lake Asebbe in Gabon. They belong to the longistyla-group of Trithemis with several species placed formerly in Anectothemis, Congothemis, Lokithemis and Porpacithemis (see Dijkstra et al. 2015).

Trithemis imitata and T. monardi – It is unclear whether these are distinct species or if T. imitata is a paler and generally more northerly variety of T. monardi. Both are currently listed for Angola.

Trithemis palustrisDamm and Hadrys (2009) separated two species from T. stictica (Burmeister, 1839) on genetic and morphological grounds. However, they only provided genetic characters to distinguish T. palustris from its alleged sister species T. morrisoni Damm & Hadrys, 2009. Our records may thus represent both taxa, but given the limited geographic scope of the 2009 study, these may also be synonymous.


Angola’s rich dragonfly fauna expresses its geographic position, size and diversity (Fig. 2). Dijkstra et al. (2011) observed that roughly half of tropical African species occur predominantly within the extensive lowland forests of the western and central continent, a quarter is associated with the eastern and southern part dominated by highlands, while the remaining quarter occurs in open habitats throughout much of the Afrotropics. Indeed, about half of Angola’s species are widespread across the continent and its exceptional diversity can be attributed to two major sources:

Almost 30% are confined to forest habitats in the north, mostly below 1,000 m asl, e.g. Phaon camerunensis, Umma longistigma, Chlorocypha cancellata, Allocnemis pauli, Elattoneura lliba, Africallagma vaginale, Agriocnemis forcipata, Ceriagrion annulatum, Pseudagrion kibalense, Anax congoliath, Neurogomphus alius, Paragomphus machadoi, Phyllomacromia aureozona, Acisoma trifidum, Cyanothemis simpsoni, Hadrothemis camarensis, Malgassophlebia bispina, Micromacromia camerunica, Neodythemis klingi, Notiothemis robertsi, Orthetrum austeni, Oxythemis phoenicosceles, Porpax asperipes, Thermochoria equivocata, Trithemis basitincta and Zygonyx regisalberti. Nine species confined to the Lower Guinea, the forest area that stretches between the Congo Basin and Atlantic Ocean from Cameroon to Gabon and western Congo, reach their southern limit in north-western Angola: Sapho orichalcea, Chlorocypha cyanifrons, Platycypha rufitibia, Copera congolensis, Pseudagrion simonae, Paragomphus abnormis, P. cf. darwalli and Tetrathemis fraseri.

Nearly 20% favour the swamps, grasslands, miombo woodlands and gallery forests that stretch eastwards, mostly above 1,000 m asl. This fauna is concentrated in Katanga and northern Zambia, but has now been proven to extend across to the Angolan upland with species like Umma electa, Chlorocypha fabamacula, Aciagrion steeleae, Ceriagrion sakejii, Pinheyagrion angolicum, Pseudagrion greeni, P. inconspicuum, P. deningi, Phyllomacromia unifasciata, Aethiothemis ellioti, Crocothemis brevistigma, Eleuthemis libera, Nesciothemis fitzgeraldi, Orthetrum macrostigma, Porpax risi, Rhyothemis mariposa, Trithemis anomala, T. leakeyi and Zygonyx denticulatus. The discovery of Trithemis integra near Uíge is of special interest, as it seemed endemic to the Albertine Rift, being known previously only from western Tanzania and Uganda and eastern DRC.

Figure 2. 

Distribution of Odonata diversity in continental Africa. Mapped as the number of species per Hydro1K basin (adapted from Clausnitzer et al. 2012), Angola outlined in white.


Sixteen species have so far only been found in Angola. With the exception of two known only from their type locality, all are limited to the central plateau (Figs 3, 5): the type locality for Platycypha rubriventris is questionable (see comment above) as may that of Pseudagrion dundoense from the extreme north-east, which could also be a river species from the very poorly sampled southern Congo Basin. No endemics have been found below 1,200 m asl in the east, although some drop down to about 500 m asl west of the escarpment. While the proportion of endemics (7%) is lower than for Ethiopia (12 endemics; 11%) and South Africa (30 endemics; 18%), countries that also enclose distinct highland areas, this still ranks Angola as one of Africa’s greatest centres of endemism for Odonata, rivalling the highlands of Cameroon (13 endemics) and the Albertine Rift, Eastern Arc and Katanga. Moreover, the number stands to increase, as almost two-fifths were described since exploration was reinitiated and at least another probable Platycypha species is already known to us.

Only Platycypha presents an endemic radiation. While the genus Chlorocypha has diversified with almost 30 species largely in the forested lowlands of west and central Africa, Platycypha is more varied and includes at least four open-land species (Fig. 4): P. caligata occurs widely from South Africa to Ethiopia, two species are limited to cooler parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe, one to Lake Tanganyika’s shores, and another possibly to Lake Malawi. Two species of submontane forest are endemic to Tanzania and Kenya. Four species are mostly in forest, three in the Lower Guinea and Congo Basin, while P. lacustris stretches around that basin and is thus expected in Angola too. The Angolan endemics are found mainly between 1,300 and 1,800 m asl in open habitats. Such a local radiation of a group that has otherwise diversified in the highlands to the east, and forests to the north, fits the overall affinities of Angola’s endemic Odonata both geographically and ecologically.

The four endemic Pseudagrion species, for example, have separate origins but similar links: morphology and COI data suggest that the nearest relatives of P. angolense and P. estesi are the rainforest species P. grilloti Legrand, 1987 and P. kibalense respectively. The former is limited to Congo and Gabon but the latter extends to Cameroon and Uganda. P. sarepi is closely related to P. fisheri and P. greeni, both of which extend from Angola into Zambia. While these species belong to the genus’s A-group, the B-group species P. dundoense is known only from Dundo and (as noted above) may not be endemic at all. Notogomphus kimpavita is the sister-species of N. praetorius found in highlands across southern Africa (including Angola), while Eleuthemis eogaster is nearest to an unnamed species from Gabon (Dijkstra et al. 2015). Molecular data for Umma femina and Onychogomphus rossii are lacking, but their morphology is close to U. electa and pale Onychogomphus species, both from the open plateaus stretching from Angola to Zambia and Katanga.

Thus, like the majority of Angola’s Odonata, most endemics probably originated quite recently and proximally from the forests to the north and open habitats to the east. However, some affinities are unresolved and potentially more distant: Agriocnemis toto and especially A. canuango have no obvious close relatives (Dijkstra et al. 2015), while the near-endemic A. angolensis and A. bumhilli are probably related to each other but even more distinct overall (Dijkstra unpubl.). Indeed, Angola may be the centre of diversification of Africa’s smallest damselflies. Micromacromia flava (Fig. 6b) is morphologically nearest M. miraculosa (Förster, 1906), known only from the East Usambara Mountains of north-eastern Tanzania (Dijkstra and Vick 2006), and the only one of four Micromacromia species adapted to non-forest habitats, being strongly pruinose with maturity. Elattoneura tarbotonorum may be closest to E. frenulata of south-western South Africa (Dijkstra et al. 2015).

Figure 3. 

Records of 16 endemic Odonata species in Angola relative to altitude. White dots: endemic species (marked ** in Table 1); grey triangles: other species. Elevation follows the GTOPO30 model of the U.S. Geological Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS).

Figure 4. 

Distribution of the endemic crocea-group of Platycypha species and all congeneric taxa. Names of taxa that favour open habitats are in black, those tending toward forest in white (although P. rufitibia occurs on very open rivers); abbreviations: am — P. amboniensis, in — P. inyangae, la — form “lacus” of P. caligata which may represent a distinct species, pi — P. pinheyi. The rather dispersed forest species P. lacustris is shown with black squares (adapted from Dijkstra 2008).

Figure 5. 

Photographs of some of Angola’s (near) endemic dragonflies and damselflies. a Angola Sparklewing (Umma femina) b Highland Blue Jewel (Platycypha bamptoni) c Angola Blue Jewel (Platycypha crocea) d Blue Wisp (Agriocnemis angolensis) e Sarep Sprite (Pseudagrion sarepi) f Estes’s Sprite (Pseudagrion estesi) g Angola Sprite (Pseudagrion angolense) h Sunrise Firebelly (Eleuthemis eogaster) (a S. Fernandes Elizalde b–f J. Kipping g W. Tarboton, h K.D. Dijkstra).

Figure 6. 

Photographs of Angola’s endemic a Angola Dancing Jewel (Platycypha angolensis) and b Angola Micmac (Micromacromia flava) (K.D. Dijkstra).

Potential for discovery

If we compare the tallies for the well-studied neighbours Zambia and Namibia, the total number of species in Angola should lie somewhat above 300, meaning that less than 80% of the fauna is currently known. Additions can be expected throughout the country, but especially on the eastern and particularly northern border. Appropriately, the province of Lunda Norte should be the richest area of discovery, around Dundo where exploration began in the 1950s. On the other hand, the central highlands could expect more suprises, like the discovery of additional endemic species, with three areas being especially notable.

Firstly, despite having most records, the north-south directed range that lies entirely above 1,600 m asl and includes the Serra do Chilengue, Serra da Chela and Angola’s highest peak at Mt Moco (2,620 m asl) is poorly sampled as the large gaps in Fig. 1 and 3 illustrate. Secondly, except for at its extreme northern and southern ends, the western escarpment has not been surveyed at all. Finally, a huge plateau at 1,200-1,600 m asl stretches east from the Bié Highlands. Except for its southern edge, this area shared between Bié and Moxico Provinces, which is almost as large as Uganda (or the United Kingdom), has no records. These deep Kalahari sands are the ‘watertower’ of Angola and its neighbours, incorporating the headwaters of the Cuito, Cuando, Chicapa, Cuango, Cuanza and large tributaries of the Congo and Zambezi like the Cassai and Lungué-Bungo. The vast catchments of the Congo, Cuanza, Okavango and Zambezi meet in small area between Munhango and Cangonga. Watersheds are prone to endemism (Dijkstra et al. 2011) and this region is the top priority for further research.

New species are most likely to be found among genera prone to narrow (highland) ranges, i.e. with known Angolan endemics like Platycypha and Pseudagrion, but also Agriocnemis, Elattoneura, Notogomphus and perhaps Paragomphus. However, given the biogeographic diversity of Angola’s fauna and endemics, we could expect greater surprises. Among forest genera with no known Angolan endemic, Allocnemis seems most likely to reveal one, e.g. on the escarpment. The presence (or local endemism) of distinctly Lower Guinean genera like Neurolestes, Africocypha, Pentaphlebia and Stenocnemis seems less likely, but the Lower Guinean Stenocypha gracilis (Karsch, 1899) has four endemic relatives in the Albertine Rift and the sister-taxon of the Upper and Lower Guinean Tragogomphus is Nepogomphoides stuhlmanni (Karsch, 1899) in the Eastern Arc, suggesting an Angolan taxon is possible.

Three typical African highland genera are notably absent from Angola. Atoconeura is most likely to be present, being found in Zambia, Katanga, the Lower Guinea and Albertine Rift. However, its absence also from South Africa suggests historical factors may have been limiting, e.g. that the highlands were uninhabitable in cooler periods and unreachable when habitats were suitable (Dijkstra 2006). This might not apply to Proischnura, present in South Africa as well as Cameroon and the Albertine Rift. However, that genus is absent from Katanga and northern Zambia, which lies lower and thus possibly provided no stepping-stone to the mountains of Angola. Similarly, Zosteraeschna extends from the Cape to the Albertine Rift, Ethiopia and even northern Namibia, but is absent from Katanga, northern Zambia and also Cameroon, potentially providing no route to Angola.

If these genera do occur in Angola, they might only occur above 1,400 m asl and could constitute endemic species. More probable, however, is the discovery of endemics in genera that are well-represented across the country and continent, and that have highland endemics elsewhere but not in Angola, such as Africallagma, Neodythemis and Orthetrum. The only record of Pinheyschna rileyi in upland Angola is of a female, which might also turn out to represent a distinctive population. Finally, there is a remote chance that a (mainly) South African genus like Syncordulia or Ceratogomphus is present. As the family Synlestidae is also represented by Nubiolestes in the Lower Guinea, while Chlorolestes is also probable.


Our findings show that Angola’s wealth of aquatic habitats harbours a rich freshwater fauna. Although large areas are relatively untouched, Angola’s rapid economic and population growth will have a tremendous impact on the environment and thus human well-being in the future. In the light of this, Angola’s development should consider (1) establishment of sewage works in cities and larger villages; (2) a stop on deforestation, especially along stream courses; (3) restoration of deforested water catchments; (4) village-level awareness campaigns for sustainable use of freshwater sources, e.g. no detergents and waste dumping in rivers; (5) biodiversity surveys and monitoring to feed into a national conservation plan.

Angola has agreed to the Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity, including Target 12 that ensures that populations of threatened species do not decrease. Figure 3 shows where endemic species are found that should be taken into consideration for the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. However, their conservation status is uncertain at present. With the exception of four species, all endemics are currently considered Data Deficient for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Platycypha angolensis, Pseudagrion angolense and Micromacromia flava are Near Threatened because, while they seem fairly widespread, their dependence on relatively natural habitats may put them at risk as human development progresses. Only Umma femina is now listed as threatened: known from only a few sites in the fairly densely populated highlands, it is thought to be Vulnerable to extinction. More research on all endemic species’ statuses and ecology is required.

Angola has an exceptional fauna of dragonflies and damselflies, as well as many valuable rivers and wetlands. Odonata are excellent indicators of the health and biodiversity of both the freshwater and terrestrial realm. As the biological survey of Angola advances, they should be a priority taxon. Dragonflies are also positive symbols, as one soldier sent to Angola during the civil war wrote (Greg Bridges in litt.):

A memory that will never fade is watching dragonflies, in their variegated splendour of colour and dazzle, hovering and darting over stagnant pools. They helped me to transport to better things than war. If we found water to fill our canteens and I saw these little creatures, I would always try to get back to the pool later, by myself. And I would find a little piece of heaven.


Jens Kipping is grateful to Dr. Paula Coelho (MINAMB) for making the survey in southern Angola possible, to Dr Chris Brooks of SAREP for the preparation and organization of the 2012 survey, to Martha Alexandre Zumbo (MINAMB), Maria Helena Loa (MINAMB), Julius Bravo (MINAMB), Francisco de Almeida (INIP), Manuel Domingos (INIP) and Gabriel Cabinda (Agriculture and Rural Development and Fisheries) for their help in organization and management on the tour, and to Vince Shacks and Werner Conradie for collecting specimens on the second SAREP survey. Viola Clausnitzer and KD Dijkstra thank Alvaro Bruno Toto Nienguesso, the driving force behind biodiversity research in Uíge Province, Angola, Prof Dr Neinhuis and Dr Thea Lautenschlaeger from TU Dresden for inviting us to join the field survey in the Uíge province. The fieldwork in Angola was supported by a travel fund from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). These published results were obtained in collaboration with the Instituto Nacional da Biodiversidade e Áreas de Conservação (INBAC) of the Ministério do Ambiente da República de Angola. Chris Hines provided photographic records and Warwick Tarboton gave permission to use his records and photograph.


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