Dragonflies and Damselflies of Ecuador (Odonata)

Bill Haber, Electronic Field Guide Project, University of Massachusetts, Boston

David Wagner, University of Connecticut, Storrs

Checklist Family Key Family Descriptions References

Project Summary
This site provides images, male and female diagnoses, habitat associations, and in-country range notes for many of the dragonflies and damselflies of Ecuador. Although our inventory of Ecuador is far from complete, we have opted to upload the available images and data online as we acquire them, rather than wait for years until we have a comprehensive representation of the fauna. Included are a great majority of the commonly encountered, larger, handsome, migratory, pond, and riverine species likely to attract public attention. Many of the species carry only a preliminary identification. However, we frequently update t axonomic names and species-level nomenclature. The nomenclature follows Garrison et al. (2006, 2010).

We illustrate most species with a thumbnail and high-resolution lateral scan of both sexes, as well as teneral and mature forms or color polymorphisms when available. Additional images include facial and genitalic close-ups, or other diagnostic structures, and for some, 1-5 perched adults photographed in the field. For all but a few species, we scanned freshly acquired individuals in order to more accurately render the magnificent colors of the living animals.

The Odonate Fauna
The Ecuador fauna consists of 14 families, with 10 families of damselflies and four of dragonflies. These vary greatly in species richness from a single species in the family Dicteriadidae to more than 100 recorded species in the Libellulidae.

The smallest Ecuadorian damselflies (e.g., Ischnura capreolus, Coenagrionidae) are barely 2 cm in total body length, while the largest reach more than 13 cm (e.g., Mecistogaster linearis, Pseudostigmatidae). The smallest dragonflies have a wingspan of about 2 cm (e.g. Perithemis and Fylgia, Libellulidae), and the largest reach more than 13 cm (Neuraeschna maya, Staurophlebia reticulata, Aeshnidae).

Ecuador is rich in water resources, especially standing water microhabitats such as swamps, ponds, lakes and oxbow lagoons. Being located close to the equator, its climate, especially on the eastern slope is less seasonal than that of temperate and most tropical areas of the globe, and as a result, its water sources, including springs and tiny rivulets, are generally more permanent, greatly favoring the maintenance of diversity. Much of eastern Ecuador is located within the largest and most diverse rainforest on the planet. The range in elevation and concomitant diversity of montane habitats is also great in Ecuador, with resident breeders occurring from sea level to altitudes exceeding 4000 meters. Finally, the faunas of the country's eastern and western slopes differ markedly at the species level, especially for non-migratory taxa. Considering these characteristics of habitat diversity, climate, and biogeography, Ecuador's odonate fauna should prove to be among the richest on Earth.

The total number of dragonfly and damselfly species listed for Ecuador by Paulson (2014) is just 317. Bill Mauffray, Ken Tennessen, and Jim Johnson are nearing completion of their manuscript on the "Distribution of the Odonata (Dragonflies) of Ecuador." Their compilation will treat nearly 350 species, a fraction of which are literature records. Costa Rica, with one fifth the land area of Ecuador, has about 300 species of odonates (Haber, 2014). For taxa such as butterflies, birds and orchids, Ecuador supports twice or more the number of species found in Costa Rica. Since we expect the same or a higher proportion to hold for Odonata, we predict the total for Ecuador will exceed 600, more than 10% of the 5912 species recognized for the world fauna.

Additional country records undoubtedly exist in institutional and private collections that have not yet been reviewed by Paulson or Tennessen et al. But the greater issue is that many parts of the country have yet to be comprehensively surveyed, especially for taxa that are wary, secretive, dwell in specialized microhabitats, or have narrow distributions. Much field work remains for the future (see Data Gaps and Natural History Observations below).

Using this Website
We treat 344 species with images: 45 are believed to be new to science and 33 are thought to be new country records (per Paulson, 2014). The checklist first presents the ten families of Ecuadorian damselflies (Zygoptera) and then the four families of dragonflies (Anisoptera). Families, genera, and species are arranged alphabetically. The Electronic Field Guide link will take you to the core database. Use the seven option lists to select a focal taxon and then click "Search," this will generate a species list accompanied by male and female thumbnails (as available). Clicking on the "Scientific name" will take you to a species page with 1-15 images, habitat information, and in-country range for that species. Clicking on any thumbnail will generate a full-sized image (1800 pixels in width). Clicking on this larger image will magnify the image once more to full size; clicking a second time will toggle back to the previous full screen view.

Data Gaps and Natural History Observations
We are interested in connecting with Ecuadorian collaborators and others to help fill in data gaps. We have almost no records from Ecuador’s high-elevation Central Valley. Elevations above 1000 m are poorly sampled across the whole of Ecuador, in large measure because higher-elevation forests are so wet and rainy that it is difficult for anyone but a resident to time their sampling efforts to the infrequent and often brief periods of sun. The western lowlands also need surveying: almost any wetland from Guayaquil south to Peru has the potential to yield species new for our inventory. Rearing gomphids, a group that is difficult to collect as adults due to their secretive and wary behaviors, would certainly yield many new discoveries (including unnamed species).

As an example, larvae of Agriogomphus are common in streams in the eastern lowlands, yet we have never seen a male over the course of more than 900 person-hours in the areas where Agriogomphus larvae are common (although we have taken three females perched on vegetation along lowland streams). Additional life history observations . Altitudinal ranges are unknown for many of Ecuador's dragonflies and damselflies. Breeding habitats have not been adequately described for most of the country's Odonata; if you see males on territory or females ovipositing, please take careful notes, and if possible, images and share these. Be forewarned, that while photographic images are adequate for most species, specimen-based vouchers are necessary for taxonomically difficult genera (and are scientifically more reliable and verifiable). As is true of all aquatic species, conservation decisions should be based primarily on knowledge of breeding habitat, and only secondarily on adult behavior and associated habitats.

Acknowledgments and Collaborators
Many individuals and institutions facilitated this project. We want to thank all who made this effort possible.

Taxonomists who have identified many specimens: Natalia von Ellenrieder, Rosser Garrison, and Dennis Paulson.

Collaborators with field work: Tim Kell, Vicky Liu, Fred Morrison, Elicio Tapia, Mike Thomas, Ronald Vargas, and Michael Veit contributed more than two weeks of field time. Ronald Vargas deserves special mention: his ability to locate secretive and wary species is something of a phenomenon. He has probably contributed more unique records than either of us. Others who dedicated considerable energy and time to our inventory include Geert Goemans, Ellis Laudermilk, John Ascher, and Eli Wyman.

Collaborators at the Pontífica Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE): Profesor Álvaro Barragán and Profesor Cliff Keil We add special thanks to the administrators of Yasuní Scientific Station Carlos Padilla, Karla Rivadeneira, David Lasso, and Pablo Jarrín. Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales (MECN): Our collaborators are Santiago Villamarín and Daniel Padilla.

Financial and Logistical Assistance: Our friend and colleague Fred Morrison provides considerable financial and logistics support (in addition to collecting many of the species shown here). La Selva Biological Station, through their support of Ronald Vargas, bolstered this effort. Deedra McClearn, Michael Thomas, Carlos de la Rosa, and Ola Fincke provided funds to offset travel expenses. Otonga Foundation: Dr. Giovanni Onore, Director. Florida State Collection of Arthropods: Bill Mauffray.

Research Permits: We offer a special thank you to Emilia Moreno and Giovanni Ramón, who have extended great effort over many years to secure research permits for our project. Electronic Field Guide Project: Robert Morris, Robert Stevenson, David Lowery.

Garrison, R.W., N. von Ellenrieder, and J.A. Louton. 2006. Dragonfly Genera of the New World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 368 pp.

arrison, R.W., N. von Ellenrieder, and J.A. Louton. 2010. Damselfly Genera of the New World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 490 pp.

Haber, W.A. and D.L. Wagner. 2014. Dragonflies and Damselflies: Odonata of Costa Rica. http://efg.cs.umb.edu/monteverde/Ode/OdeIntro.html

Paulson, D.R. 2014. Dragonflies. Slater Museum of Natural History. University of Puget Sound. http://www.pugetsound.edu/academics/academic-resources/slater-museum/biodiversity-resources/dragonflies/

Text and images copyright 2004-2014 by William A. Haber and David L. Wagner (david.wagner at uconn.edu, argianegra at yahoo.com).

Updated: 25 March 2014.

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A Database with Species Pages and Images

Species recorded from Ecuador, listed alphabetically by family and scientific name.

A web-based guide to the Odonata of Costa Rica, providing images, keys and data for identifying species.

A research project at UMass, Boston designing software for users to create web-based field guides.