Masai Sprite (Pseudagrion massaicum)

The photo above (by Basil Boer) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

Pseudagrion massaicum is a species of damselfly in the family Coenagrionidae.

Identification

Small size

Length up to 38mm; Wingspan reaches 45mm

Females are best recognised by their association with the males.

Pseudagrion massaicum – Mkhuze Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
©Ryan Tippett 2020

Habitat

This species is found mostly at still-water habitats such as pans, dams, ponds, lakes and slow flowing parts of rivers and streams. Masai Sprites prefer well vegetated parts of water bodies, however they can also be found at dams with bare gravelly or sandy banks provided there is at least some aquatic vegetation.

Habitat – Mkhuze Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Behaviour

Perches on waterlilies and other emergent plants and twigs close to the water surface. Sometimes sits on rocks or exposed sand at the waters edge. Flies low over the water. Females can be found near the males, but are frequently found away from the water in the surrounding bushes or woodlands.

Conservation and Status

Pseudagrion massaicum is listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is an abundant and widespread species that has largely benefited from making use of man-made impoundments. It can be found in somewhat degraded habitats, including sewage treatment ponds and areas with alien plants.

Distribution

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Masai Sprite in the OdonataMAP database as at February 2020.

The next map below is an imputed map, produced by an interpolation algorithm, which attempts to generate a full distribution map from the partial information in the map above. This map will be improved by the submission of records to the OdonataMAP section of the Virtual Museum.

Ultimately, we will produce a series of maps for all the odonata species in the region. The current algorithm is a new algorithm. The objective is mainly to produce “smoothed” maps that could go into a field guide for odonata. This basic version of the algorithm (as mapped above) does not make use of “explanatory variables” (e.g. altitude, terrain roughness, presence of freshwater — we will be producing maps that take these variables into account soon). Currently, it only makes use of the OdonataMAP records for the species being mapped, as well as all the other records of all other species. The basic maps are “optimistic” and will generally show ranges to be larger than what they probably are.

These maps use the data in the OdonataMAP section of the Virtual Museum, and also the database assembled by the previous JRS funded project, which was led by Professor Michael Samways and Dr KD Dijkstra.

Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Sally Hofmeyr, Ryan Tippett & Les Underhill
Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Sally Hofmeyr, Ryan Tippett & Les Underhill
Megan Loftie-Eaton is our communications, social media and citizen science coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. Sally Hofmeyr has many years' experience in the academic world, writing her own material and editing the work of others. Her academic background is in the natural sciences: her PhD and first postdoc in ornithology and environmental change (Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town). Ryan Tippett is an enthusiastic contributor to Citizen Science and has added many important and interesting records of fauna and flora. He has been a member of the VMU since 2014 and has currently submitted over 11000 records. He is also on the expert identification panel for the Odonata Map project. Prof Les Underhill has been Director of the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) at the University of Cape Town since it started in 1991. Although citizen science in biology is Les’s passion, his academic background is in mathematical statistics.