Dragonfly or Damselfly?Side by Side The Little and Large Show The Shell Game Going to Extremes Side by Side answer Going Zen The Rule Acknowledgement of sources

Author Jeff Melvaine

Going Zen: Just one more complication…

It doesn’t affect the species you will see in Australia, but … dragonflies and damselflies do not cover the whole range of Odonates. The genus Epiophlebia, containing at least one species although four have been claimed, exhibits characteristics that disqualify it from both categories. For example, the adult male clasps the female’s head (like a dragonfly, except that the male head actually has ridged structures that discourage other males from trying to pair with it). The internal gills of the larvae have only weak pumping muscles (like a damselfly, but without the gill lobes at the end of the damselfly abdomen), so they live along cold mountain streams in Japan, China, North Korea and the Himalayas. The eyes are quite narrowly separated at the top of the head, but the wings are normally held closed while perching. The wings are intermediate between typical dragonfly and damselfly examples, but in a different way to the borderline example of Cordulephya. The discoidal cell is a quadrilateral, as with damselflies. The nodus is about half way along, the normal position for dragonflies, but it is not developed to the degree found in dragonflies. The forewings and hindwings have narrow stalk-like bases of similar width, but not as long and straight as those of typical damselflies. And the list goes on, but the most radical differences are hidden away in the copulatory organs, which are a law unto themselves.

The first of these oddball species to be discovered was thought at that time to belong to the family Gomphidae, in which oddball features are not necessarily a disqualifying factor. They were later placed in a suborder named Anisozygoptera, when odonatologists believed that they were descended from a common ancestor of both the other suborders, which is not the modern view. DNA analysis suggests that Epiophlebia are more closely related to dragonflies than damselflies, so a new suborder Epiprocta was created with Anisozygoptera and Anisoptera as infraorders within it, but the overall differences between Anisozygoptera and the other two groups are significant in both cases, so Anisozygoptera and Anisoptera have been restored recently from infraorder to suborder names.

A suggested common name for Epiophlebia is damsel dragon, but if you use that as a search term on Google, you may find yourself buried up to your eyeballs in promotions for fishing flies and fantasy fiction. Here is the most convenient link that I have found to illustrate the best known species, with better photographs than iNaturalist or Wikipedia, although I have used the latter’s better offerings in the banner above and also cited under “Sources”.

Dragonfly or Damselfly?Side by Side The Little and Large Show The Shell Game Going to Extremes Side by Side answer Going Zen The Rule Acknowledgement of sources

Footnote & References

  1. Source: see Acknowledgement of sources

Dragonflies & DamselfliesDragonfly or Damselfly? Sex Lives and Dragonflies Damselflies Diplacodes haematodes Diplacodes melanopsis (Black-faced Percher) Hemicordulia tau Orthetrum caledonicum Orthetrum migratum Orthetrum villosovittatum

InsectsBees Beetles Blattodea Butterflies Coleoptera Cicada Crabronidae Diptera Dragonflies & Damselflies Formicidae Hemiptera Heteroptera (True Bugs) Mango Planthopper Moths Orthoptera Orthopteroid Processionary Caterpillar Stink Bugs, Shield Bugs and Allies Syrphidae Wasps Water Scorpion (Laccotrephes tristis) Witchetty Grub