Family Libellulidae Leach, 1815
perchers and skimmers


  • scientific: Urothemistidae Lieftinck, 1954; Macrodiplactidae Fraser, 1957


With over 140 genera and 1000 species worldwide, the perchers or skimmers are the largest anisopteran family. They are often the most active and conspicuous dragonflies at the waterside. The family is exceptionally well-represented in the Afrotropics, with nearly a third of the world’s genera and between a fifth and a quarter of the species. The family has been divided into numerous subfamilies based on similarities of wing venation. These, however, do not indicate close relationships. Identification of the genera still relies heavily on these characters and one must realise that every possible variation, exception and aberration of venation may exist. For example, in genera like Hemistigma, Trithemis and Trithetrum individuals with both distal forewing Ax complete are quite frequent and it is even the prevalent condition in some species (e.g. Trithemis dorsalis). Aethiothemis is especially variable in venation, even before it was expanded to include Lokia. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014]


Family set apart from other libelluloids by (1) posterior border of eyes usually straight, at most weakly sinuous; (2) tibiae without keels; (3) one or more of S2-4 with transverse ridge. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014]

Trithemis brydeni Pinhey, 1970. Female © Jens Kipping

Neodythemis preussi (Karsch, 1891). Male © Nicolas Meziere

Orthetrum camerunense Gambles, 1959. Male (mature) © Hans-Joachim Clausnitzer

Trithemis tropicana Fraser, 1953. Male © C?®dric Vanappelghem

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.


  • Balinsky, B.I. (1961). Observations on the dragonfly fauna of the coastal region of Zululand, with descriptions of three new species (Odonata). Journal Entomological Society Southern Africa, 24, 72-91. [PDF file]

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