- Naturalists Klaas-Douwe B. Dijkstra, Jens Kipping and Nicolas Mézière scanned through swamps and streams in Africa and discovered 60 new species of dragonflies and damselflies in varied habitats.
- Mézière, a school teacher, found 18 of the 60 new species, all in Gabon.
- The team named one species, the Robust Sparklewing Umma gumma from central Africa after the classic 1969 album by Pink Floyd.
A team of researchers has described 60 new species of dragonflies and damselflies from various parts of Africa, according to a recent study published in the journal Odonatologica.
This is the most number of dragonfly species to be described at once in 130 years, researchers say. And with this discovery, the total number of known species of dragonflies has jumped from 700 to 760.
Researchers write that most of the newly described species are colorful and easy to identify from photographs alone.
“The current emphasis on molecular research in taxonomy creates the impression that undiscovered life is inconspicuous or hidden, but each of our new species is colorful and easy to identify,” lead researcher Klaas-Douwe B. Dijkstra, a member of the IUCN SSC Dragonfly Specialist Group, said in a statement. “It’s a matter of going outside and knowing what you’re looking for. It’s a biologist’s greatest importance today. Names introduce species to humanity. All awareness, conservation and research of nature starts with the question: which species is that?”
Naturalists Dijkstra, Jens Kipping and Nicolas Mézière scanned through swamps and streams in Africa and discovered the new species in varied — not especially remote – habitats.
For example, they found new damselfly species called the Gabon Slim Sprite Pseudagrion dactylidium perching by muddy puddles in deep shade, a dragonfly called the Pale Cascader Zygonyx denticulatus hovering over sunny rapids, and the new Rock Threadtail Elattoneura lapidaria in the Chimanimani Mountains in Zimbabwe, encroached by gold mining.
Mézière, a school teacher, found 18 of the 60 new species, all in Gabon. The team named one of the newly discovered Blue-spotted Pricklyleg Porpax mezierei in his honor.
They also named one species, the Robust Sparklewing Umma gumma, found in central Africa, after the classic 1969 album by Pink Floyd (the album was called Ummagumma, slang for making love).
In fact, the team found that the poor sandy soils of central Africa was a hotspot for the dragonflies, home to half of all the new species.
“Paradoxically, the hotspot may owe its distinct freshwater fauna partly to past aridity, as Africa saw vast climatic changes over millions of years,” the authors write. “The sand left behind by deserts that expanded in dry periods now absorbs the still highly seasonal rainfall, providing a permanent abundance of aquatic habitats.”
According to the statement, the IUCN SSC Dragonfly Specialist Group will now assess the status of these species for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
- Dijkstra K-DB, Kipping J, Mézière N 2015. Sixty new dragonfly and damselfly species from Africa (Odonata). Odonatologica 44(4) 2015: 447-678.