Genus Platycypha Fraser, 1949
dancing jewels

Type species: Libellago caligata Selys, 1853


Endemic to tropical Africa with ten to twelve small to medium-sized (hindwing 15-26 mm) species. Males use their colourful (often dilated) tibiae in display. They share this feature with the unrelated genera Copera and Proplatycnemis and the terms ‘shaft’ and ‘dilation’ are used below in a similar way. Ecologically Platycypha is more diverse than Chlorocypha: most species also inhabit forest streams (also P. lacustris, despite its name), in the case of Kenya’s P. amboniensis and Zimbabwe’s P. inyangae these are distinctly submontane, while P. eliseva and P. picta are localised on sandy lowland streams and P. rufitibia also on rivers in Central Africa. P. angolensis, P. auripes and P. fitzsimonsi occur at moderate elevations in Angola, Tanzania and South Africa respectively. P. caligata occupies almost every (partly) exposed stream and river in eastern Africa, occasionally breeding in lakes. P. caligata f. lacus (which may be a distinct species) and P. pinheyi are exclusive to rocky shores of the ‘freshwater seas’ Malawi and Tanganyika. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014]


Similar to other chlorocyphids by (a) swollen snout-like face; (b) 3 or more Ax; (c) arculus halfway between base and node, or more proximal instead of distal; (d) quadrilateral with 1-3 cross-veins; (e) abdomen stout rather than slender, reaches about to wing tips. However, differs from Stenocypha and Chlorocypha by tibiae largely white, yellow, orange and/or red, at most with some black at base or apex, and often expanded. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014]

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. (1967). African Chlorocyphidae (Odonata). Journal of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa, 29, 161-197. [PDF file]
  • Pinhey, E.C.G. (1961). Dragonflies (Odonata) of Central Africa. Occasional Papers Rhodes-Livingstone Museum, 14, 1-97. [PDF file]
  • Pinhey, E.C.G. (1967). Odonata Zygoptera. Exploration Hydrobiologique Bassin Lac Bangweolo Luapula, 14, 1-43. [PDF file]
  • Ris, F. 1921. The Odonata or dragonflies of South Africa. West, Newman for the Trustees of the South African Museum, 18 [PDF file]

Citation: Dijkstra, K.-D.B (editor). African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online. [2024-07-20].