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Damselflies and dragonflies

Odonata is an order of flying insects comprising two large and very different groups: the suborder Zygoptera, commonly known as damselflies, and the suborder Anisoptera, known as dragonflies.

All dragonflies and damselflies lay eggs in water where the larvae develop. These insects thus come in two completely different forms: the larvae are flightless and live exclusively in the water where they hunt other insect larvae or sometimes, in the case of the larger species, also fry, tadpoles or other small vertebrates. The larva then emerges from the water, clings to a branch or rock and undergoes a metamorphosis to become a dragonfly, as they are most widely known.

A typical example of the dragonfly Hadrothemis defecta (male), found mainly in West and Central Africa

Like all insects, they have six legs. They all have four wings and most have large eyes with many facets. The adults are, like the larvae, carnivorous. They hunt small flycatchers, butterflies and other flying insects.

Damselflies and dragonflies of the Guinean forests.

There are over 300 species of Odonata in Upper and Lower Guinea. Not all of them are dependent on forests, as many need sunny areas and live only in the savannah or on the forest edge. There are, however, many species that live only in forest rivers or streams.

Trithemis annulata is a non-forest dragonfly found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa (Pinselli forest, OKKPS).
Diastatoma gamblesi is strictly endemic to the forest streams of Upper Guinea (Kiota, Wologizi-Wonegezi-Ziama landscape)
A mating of Hadrothemis versuta, which is only found in the forests of West and Central Africa (Sapo NP, Taï-Grebo-Krahn-Sapo landscape)

The interest of dragonflies is that they are excellent indicators of the quality of the environment: their eggs and larvae can only survive in clean water; the adults need prey which in turn depend on many plants.

Allocnemis flavipennis is a damselfly that lives in small forest streams from Sierra Leone to western Cameroon. In the darkness of the forest, it can be detected by the yellow tip of its abdomen.

Diversity still poorly understood

Although, after butterflies, dragonflies are among the best known insects, there are still many species to be discovered, including in Guinean forests. Several species have been discovered recently and others are still awaiting scientific description.

Phyllomacromia cf melania is a species that was discovered a few years ago and still needs a formal description. This is a rare, if not the only, photo of an individual in natural condition (East Nimba Nature Reserve, Mount Nimba landscape)

PAPFor supports bio-monitoring programmes in all landscapes and inventories that provide a better understanding of the biodiversity of Guinean forests, including dragonflies and damselflies.