Genus Coryphagrion Morton, 1924
east coast giants

Type species: Coryphagrion grandis Morton, 1924


The giant or helicopter damselflies are huge, slow-flying species that breed in small water-carrying cavities in trees (phytotelmata) and hunt by plucking spiders and their prey out of their webs. All but one of the six genera and about twenty species that formerly constituted the family Pseudostigmatidae are confined to tropical America. The monotypic genus Coryphagrion is restricted to thick coastal forests of Kenya, Tanzania and possibly Mozambique: its similarity to American ‘pseudostigmatids’ probably arose by convergence. In fact, the superficially very dissimilar genus Oreocnemis from Mt Mulanje in Malawi may be related most closely. C. grandis is Africa’s largest damselfly (abdomen 70-100, hindwing 40-60 mm), and the only one known to breed in tree-holes and other phytotelmata (e.g. cut giant bamboo). Adults are very elusive, and largely black with some greenish markings. The species is more easily found as larva, which even inhabits water-filled coconut husks and giant snail shells lying on the ground. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014]


Genus is unique in Africa by combining coenagrionoid venation (e.g. only 2 Ax) with huge size, i.e. Hw 4-7 cm and Abd 7-10 cm. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014]

Coryphagrion grandis Morton, 1924. Female © Viola Clausnitzer

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.


  • Kimmins, D.E. (1931). Description of the male Coryphagrion grandis Morton (Odonata). Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 7, 215-217. [PDF file]
  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B, and Clausnitzer, V. (2014). The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Eastern Africa: handbook for all Odonata from Sudan to Zimbabwe. Studies in Afrotropical Zoology, 298, 1-264.
  • Fraser, F.C. (1955). The Megapodagriidae and Amphipterygidae (Odonata) of the African Continent. Proceedings of the Royal Entomological Society of London, 24, 139-146. [PDF file]
  • Morton, K.J. (1924). A new genus and new species of dragonflies from East Africa belonging to the Legion Podagrion (Odonata). Entomologist, 57, 217-220. [PDF file]

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