Learning more about Odonata

ADDO provides no overview of the general biology of dragonflies, but three essential facts help understand most of their habits:
(1) they are amphibiotic, so eggs and larvae develop in water, while adults live on land and in the air;
(2) they are obligate carnivores, so all species hunt, both as larva and adult;
(3) their reproduction is unique.
Because the male holds the female behind her head with the tip of his abdomen, direct sperm transfer between the genitalia (also located at the tip of the abdomen) is impossible. Sperm is therefore transferred indirectly via secondary genitalia at the base of the male's abdomen.

Afrotropical odonatology is built on the legacy of Elliot C.G. Pinhey (1910-1999) that includes many taxonomic and regional monographs and an amazing number of smaller contributions (Dijkstra 2003; Vick et al. 2001). Dijkstra et al. (2003) provide a brief history of African odonatology and Dijkstra (2003; 2007) supplies a bibliography of the main taxonomic and regional literature.

Suhling et al. (2015) give the best general introduction to the order Odonata. For detailed information on every aspect of dragonfly biology we recommend Corbet (1999). Kalkman et al. (2008) and Clausnitzer et al. (2009) provide overviews of global diversity and status; Dijkstra et al. (2013, 2014) update the classification. Clausnitzer et al. (2012), Dijkstra (2007) and Dijkstra et al. (2011) provide overviews of African dragonfly diversity and status.

Dijkstra & Clausnitzer (2014) treat over 500 African species, with 60 new species added by Dijkstra et al. (2015). The identification of northern African species is possible with Dijkstra & Lewington (2006); southern Africa is serviced by Samways (2008), Suhling & Martens (2007) and Tarboton & Tarboton (2015), while Suhling et al. (2014) provide the ideal basis for identifying larvae.

An introduction to freshwater monitoring using the Dragonfly Biotic Index in South Africa is now available (Samways & Simaika 2016).

To learn more, please go to K.D.B. Dijkstra's personal page or read the pages on studying and identifying Odonata, or start browsing the species pages. To stay updated, join the Facebook pages on African Dragonflies and AFRESH (African Freshwater Entomology Workshops).

AFRESH group photo

Please refer to any information used from this site as "Dijkstra, K.-D.B (editor), 2016. African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online. http://addo.adu.org.za (version 1 July 2016)" or any reference provided in the text.

If referring to distribution data please refer to the "Odonata Database of Africa" and "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."

River fishermen. Photo K.-D.B. Dijkstra


  • Clausnitzer, V., Kalkman, V.J., Ram, M., Collen, B., Baillie, J.E.M, Bedjanic, M., Darwall, W.R.T., Dijkstra, K.-D.B., Dow, R., Hawking, J., Karube, H., Malikova, E., Paulson, D., Schütte, K., Suhling, F., Villanueva, R.J., von Ellenrieder, N., & Wilson, K. 2009. Odonata enter the biodiversity crisis debate: The first global assessment of an insect group. Biological Conservation 142: 1864-1869.
    Link to PDF
  • Clausnitzer, V., Dijkstra, K.-D.B., Koch, R., Boudot, J.-P., Darwall, W.R.T., Kipping, J., Samraoui, B., Samways, M.J., Simaika, J.P. & Suhling, F. 2012. Focus on African Freshwaters: hotspots of dragonfly diversity and conservation concern. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 129-134. Link to PDF
  • Corbet, P.S. 1999. Dragonflies: behaviour and ecology of Odonata. Colchester: Harley Books.
  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B. 2003. A review of the taxonomy of African Odonata: finding ways to better identification and biogeographic insight. Cimbebasia 18: 191-206. Link to PDF
  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B. 2007. Demise and rise: the biogeography and taxonomy of the Odonata of tropical Africa. PhD Thesis, Leiden University. 143-187. Link to PDF
  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B. & Clausnitzer V. 2014. The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Eastern Africa: handbook for all Odonata from Sudan to Zimbabwe. Studies in Afrotropical Zoology 298: 1-260. Link to PDF
  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B. & Lewington R. 2006. Field guide to the Dragonflies of Britain and Europe. British Wildlife Publishing. 1-320.
  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B., Bechly, G, Bybee, S.M., Dow, R.A., Dumont, H.J., Fleck, G., Garrison, R.W., Hämäläinen, M., Kalkman, V.J., Karube, H., May, M.L., Orr, A.G., Paulson, D.R., Rehn, A.C., Theischinger, G., Trueman, J.W.H., van Tol, J., von Ellenrieder, N. & Ware, J. 2013. The classification and diversity of dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata). Zootaxa 3703: 36-45. Link to PDF
  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B., Boudot, J-P., Clausnitzer, V., Kipping, J., Kisakye, J.J., Ogbogu, S.S., Samraoui, B., Samways, M.J., Schütte, K., Simaika, J.P., Suhling, F. & Tchibozo, S.L. 2011. Dragonflies and Damselflies of Africa (Odonata): History, Diversity, Distribution, and Conservation. In Darwall, W.R.T., Smith, K.G., Allen, D.J., Holland, R.A., Harrison, I.J. & Brooks, E.G.E. The Diversity of Life in African Freshwaters: Under Water, Under Threat. An analysis of the status and distribution of freshwater species throughout mainland Africa. IUCN. 128-177. Link to PDF
  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B., Kalkman, V.J., Dow, R.A., Stokvis, F.R. & van Tol, J. 2014. Redefining the damselfly families: a comprehensive molecular phylogeny of Zygoptera (Odonata). Systematic Entomology 39: 68-96. Link to PDF
  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B., Martens, A. & Parr, M.J. 2003. Proceedings of the 1st PHAON Meeting on African Odonata, Gällivare, 26 July 2001. Foreword, African Odonatology: past, present and future. Cimbebasia 18: 161-166. Link to PDF
  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B., Mézière, N. & Kipping, J. 2015. Sixty new dragonfly and damselfly species from Africa (Odonata). Odonatologica 44: 447-678.
    Link to PDF
  • Kalkman, V.J., Clausnitzer, V., Dijkstra, K.-D.B., Orr, A.G., Paulson, D.R. & van Tol, J. 2008. Global diversity of dragonflies (Odonata; Insecta) in freshwater. In E. Balian, C. Lévêque, H. Segers & K. Martens (eds). Freshwater animal diversity assessment. Hydrobiologia 595: 351-363.
    Link to PDF
  • Samways, M.J. 2008. Dragonflies and damselflies of South Africa. Sofia & Moscow: Pensoft Publishers.
  • Samways & Simaika 2016. Manual of Freshwater Assessment for South Africa: Dragonfly Biotic Index. Suricata No. 2. South African National Biodiversity Institute), Pretoria. Pp. 224. Link to PDF
  • Suhling, F. & Martens, A. 2007. Dragonflies and damselflies of Namibia. Windhoek: Gamsberg Macmillan Publishers.
  • Suhling, F., Müller, O. & Martens, A. 2014. The dragonfly larvae of Namibia (Odonata). Libellula Supplement 13: 5-106. Link to PDF
  • Suhling, F., Sahlén, G., Gorb, S., Kalkman, V.J., Dijkstra, K.-D.B. & van Tol J., 2015. Order Odonata. In Thorp & Rogers. Ecology and General Biology: Thorp and Covich's Freshwater Invertebrates. Academic Press. 893-932. Link to PDF
  • Tarboton, W. & Tarboton, M. 2015. A guide to the dragonflies (Odonata) of South Africa. Cape Town: Random House Struik.
  • Vick, G.S., Chelmick, D.G. & Martens, A. 2001. In memory of Elliot Charles Gordon Pinhey (10 July 1910 - 7 May 1999). Odonatologica 30: 1-11.
    Link to PDF