Cimbebasia issue with review papers on African odonatology
The first PHAON meeting was held during the WDA symposium in Gällivare , Sweden , on the 26 th of July 2001 . The proceedings have now appeared in Cimbebasia (volume 18, November 2003), the journal of the National Museum of Namibia. The proceedings comprise of six review papers:
Dijkstra, K.-D.B., A. Martens & M.J. Parr. Foreword: African Odonatology – past,
present and future. 161-166.
The issue also contains an annotated checklist of Namibian Odonata, a note on the capture of dragonflies in a barbed grass and several papers on other natural history subjects. If you are interested in acquiring a copy of this issue, please contact us.
Planned field guide for eastern African Odonata Viola Clausnitzer, KD Dijkstra & Brian Finch
Natural history is a growing sector in eastern Africa , which is reflected in the amount of bird guide books published for Kenya and/or East Africa over the last ten years. Recently the largely “feather” and “hair” based natural history has turned its interest to more “unspectacular” groups, such as dragonflies. These developments resulted in seven pages entirely devoted to dragonflies in the latest SWARA, East Africa's leading Natural History magazine (2003, SWARA 26, p. 48-54). Hoping to meet this spirit of the age of natural history, we are currently trying to launch a “Fieldguide to the Dragon- and Damselflies of Eastern Africa ”.
The envisaged guide will show colour photos of many species, accompanied by a text about biology, distribution and identification. This book will be appealing to a broader public than the purely scientific identification key “The dragonflies of eastern Africa – an identification manual”, which is currently in the final editing phase. The planned fieldguide and the forthcoming key will complement each other in a perfect way.
We hope to cover a region with nearly 320 species, including Ethiopia (about 100 species), Kenya (170), Malawi (150), Tanzania (180) and Uganda (230). Although this looks like an awful lot at first sight, most of the species can be identified in the field, often without catching them. This became quite obvious when we all met for the first time. Brian’s passion for dragonflies started by simply taking photographs of them all over East Africa . As we browsed through his hundreds of photos we were surprised how many we could identify, despite our initial doubts. In the end, it was possible to name nearly all the portrayed individuals (leaving Orthetrum females aside!) and –on top of that– two new species records could be added to the Kenya list.
On the trail of Ethiopia's endemic dragonflies Viola Clausnitzer & KD Dijkstra
Ethiopia 's main topographic feature is the vast and very fertile central highlands with an average elevation of 1800-2400m. It is in this Afrotropical Highland biome, whose environment has been under tremendous pressure of agriculture for a long time, where most of Ethiopia ’s endemic plants and animals are found. This is also true for the dragonflies: all eleven endemic species reported so far were found here. Another unique feature of Ethiopian odonatology is the paucity of information: most of the endemics are known from the type records only. Thus our aims during a recent trip to West and Central Ethiopia were to find the endemics and to check the forests in western Ethiopia (former Kaffa and Illubador Provinces ) for relict species from central Africa .
Despite our initial frustration about the entirely densely populated highlands and the non-existence of natural habitats, the results soon exceeded our best expectations. Of the eleven known endemics we found nine, all at new localities: Ischnura aby ssinica , Pseudagrion guichardi, P. kaffinum, Elattoneura pasquinii, Notogomphus cottarellii, N. rueppeli, Atoconeura aethiopica, Orthetrum kristenseni and Trithemis ellenbeckii. Only the two endemic Crenigomphus species eluded us, but ironically we encountered an unknown Paragomphus whose appearance is remarkably Crenigomphus-like. The habitat requirements of nearly all the endemics were less special than we had expected. We found some in very unappealing habitats that were far from “natural” (in the odonatologist’s eyes, of course).
Of a number of new species for Ethiopia , the most exciting were three species of Gynacantha, a genus previously unknown from the country. The records of the otherwise Central and West African species G. nigeriensis and G. vesiculata were most interesting in terms of the biogeography of Ethiopia ’s forests: their nearest records are from near Kampala in Uganda !
Another interesting feature was the absence of many species that we expected based on our experience in other eastern Africa countries. The red Trithemis and Pseudagrion B-group species were missing entirely from the highlands, with only a few seen at the lakes on the Rift Valley floor. These are common dragonflies at nearly all aquatic habitats further south. On the other hand it was surprising to find Lestes tridens and Tramea limbata, predominantly coastal species in East Africa , on a swampy dam 1800m above and 1100km away from the ocean.
With an average of six species per locality (range: 1-17, n = 28), species numbers were very low. This might be a because we were at the beginning of the (unfortunately) delayed rainy season. Still seasonality cannot explain the low scores entirely, when compared with results from countries further south. It seems that many of the widespread African species, which range from South Africa to Egypt , have not colonised the Ethiopian highlands. Thus the total number of species we recorded during our trip was also somewhat low with 72, although this includes nine endemics and one probable new species.
KD Dijkstra – Much of the past one and a half years was spent away from home. In April 2003 Viola Clausnitzer and I travelled to the isolated forests of Mt Marsabit in N Kenya . Afterwards I went on to W Uganda . Ten days each were spent in Bwindi Impenetrable NP (of Mountain Gorilla fame) and in Semliki NP. Bwindi’s montane forests and swamps were explored with John Joseph Kisakye and Stanley Kyobe. The rediscovery of Uganda ’s endemic papyrus-dwelling Agriocnemis palaeforma was one highlight, but the greatest surprise was a female of the elusive genus Idomacromia: the first record in East Africa . This third species of the genus will be described in honour of our editor Jill Silsby in the next issue of IJO. Probable new species of Notogomphus and Neodythemis were further proof of this area’s value. Semliki’s lowland rainforest was hardly less spectacular: three impressive gomphids in the genera Diastatomma, Ictinogomphus and Phyllogomphus were found in East Africa for the first time. Each is confined to the Congo Basin of which Semliki NP is the most eastern snippet. In October 2003 I gave a week-long dragonfly workshop for students from Kenya , Malawi , Tanzania and Uganda at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi . Two exciting days were spent together in the field. Beforehand the slopes of Mt Meru in N Tanzania were explored with Richard Rowe , in search of Platycypha caligata larvae for Richard’s behavioural studies. Under river rocks we also found larvae of Aeshna meruensis and A. rileyi side by side, the first time that these – only recently taxonomically untangled– aeshnids were found in the same habitat. In March 2003 Viola and I set out together again, in Ethiopia (see report in this issue). Between trips, visits were made to the odonate collections in Berlin , Bonn , Brussels , London , Madrid , Nairobi , Paris , Stockholm and Tervuren. All this travel should lead to the publication of an identification manual and critical checklist of Eastern African Odonata –authored with Viola– in 2005.