Taxonomy and identification of the continental African Gynacantha and Heliaeschna species (Odonata: Aeshnidae)


The taxonomy of the Gynacantha and Heliaeschna species from continental Africa is problematic, and available keys are unsatisfactory. ‘Traditional’ characters such as venation and ‘innovative’ ones like abdominal denticulation are evaluated and their variability is measured and discussed. G. quadrina is a synonym of G. africana and not of G. vesiculata, G. ochraceipes is regarded a synonym of G. vesiculata, G. victoriae of G. bullata, G. flavipes and G. sevastopuloi of G. nigeriensis, G. zuluensis of G. usambarica, and H. ukerewensis of H. trinervulata. Analysis of the complex of large Heliaeschna species provides no basis for separating species and H. lanceolata, H. libyana and H. raymondi are treated as synonyms of the single variable species H. fuliginosa. The first records of G. immaculifrons and of specimens near H. longfieldae since their descriptions are provided. The probable male of H. longfieldae is diagnosed. Remarkable heterogeneity of characters in G. manderica, G. villosa and H. longfieldae is described. This may have taxonomic relevance, but study of more specimens is required. Afrotropical Gynacantha species can be assigned to three groups: the africana-, bispina– and bullata-groups. It is suggested that Gynacantha and Heliaeschna may not be monophyletic and that the africana-group may be more closely related to African Heliaeschna than to the other Gynacantha groups. Keys to the species of Gynacantha and Heliaeschna are provided for both sexes. Identification is still tentative for females of some species.

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