Kindred spirits: “Brachythemis leucosticta”, Africa’s most familiar dragonfly, consists of two species (Odonata: Libellulidae)


Brachythemis leucosticta was found to include two morphotypes, which we consider to represent separate species. Males are separable by the ventral structure of S8 and often differ in the colour of the venation and genital lobe. Females are as yet not reliably distinguishable. Examination of 1,154 males demonstrated that both species are widespread: the true B. leucosticta occupies most of tropical Africa and Madagascar, while B. impartita (comb, nov.; corrected spelling—neotype ♂: Ngaoundaba Ranch, Cameroon; in RMNH) ranges north and south of the Sahara, and extends into Eurasia. The two overlap from The Gambia to Ethiopia and south at least to Lake Victoria. The presence of wing bands was scored for all examined males and 970 females. Banded females are frequent in sub-Saharan populations of B. impartita, but virtually absent in B. leucosticta and northern B. impartita. B. impartita males become banded shortly after emergence, but B. leucosticta becomes so more gradually. Larval morphology and ecology require further study, but some ecological and seasonal segregation may occur in areas of overlap. Of two larval forms described from Uganda, the ‘mud form’ may pertain to B. leucosticta, and the ‘sand form’ to B.impartita.

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