Family Aeshnidae Leach, 1815


  • scientific: Gynacanthidae Cockerell, 1913


Hawkers or darners are large, big-eyed dragonflies. They are good fliers and perch hanging in vegetation. Many species are crepuscular. Worldwide over 50 genera and 450 species are known, but only about a tenth of this richness occurs in the Afrotropics. Until recently, as many as 80 species were classified in Aeshna worldwide, most of them American and Eurasian. The nine sub-Saharan species belong to three distinct groups that have now been separated as the genera Afroaeschna, Pinheyschna and Zosteraeschna. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014]


Family closest to Libelluloidea by other anisopteran traits such as (a) eyes in contact; (b) Hw base broader than Fw base, with different venation, membranule present. However, differs by (1) triangles similar rather than dissimilar, in both wings, pointing outwards, both equally distant from arculus; (2) two Ax relatively thick and continuous across subcosta, others weaker and usually not aligned with subcostal cross-veins, rather than all being equally thick. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014; this diagnosis not yet verified by author]

Anax tristis Hagen, 1867. Male © KD Dijkstra

Anax ephippiger (Burmeister, 1839). Male © Paul Schrijvershof

Gynacantha (B) victoriae (Pinhey, 1961). Male © Nicolas Meziere

Map citation: Clausnitzer, V., K.-D.B. Dijkstra, R. Koch, J.-P. Boudot, W.R.T. Darwall, J. Kipping, B. Samraoui, M.J. Samways, J.P. Simaika & F. Suhling, 2012. Focus on African Freshwaters: hotspots of dragonfly diversity and conservation concern. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 129-134.


  • Pinhey, E.C.G. (1961). Dragonflies (Odonata) of Central Africa. Occasional Papers Rhodes-Livingstone Museum, 14, 1-97. [PDF file]

Citation: Dijkstra, K.-D.B (editor). African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online. [2024-07-21].