Eastern Scissortail (Microgomphus nyassicus)

The photo above (by John Wilkinson) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

Microgomphus nyassicus, the Eastern Scissortail is a dragonfly in the family Gomphidae.

Identification

Medium sized

Length reaches 43mm.

Microgomphus nyassicus is the smallest gomphid species in Southern Africa.

The Eastern Scissortail has the typical yellowish-green and black colouration of many gomphid species. It is best recognised by its small size, and distinctive clasper structure. It also has unusual, thick black, looped markings on the upper thorax.

Within the sub-region, the Eastern Scissortail is most similar to the Spined Fairytail (Lestinogomphus angustus). Both species are close in size and colouration, but Lestinogomphus angustus has a far more slender abdomen and the two have very different clasper structures.

Microgomphus nyassicus – Male
Swadini, Blyde River, Mpumalanga
Photo by Antoinette Snyman
Inset image by Andries DeVries

Habitat

Recorded from rocky rivers and streams in well-wooded or forested environments. Favours flowing water with large rocks and nearby cover in the form of shady vegetation and reeds.

Habitat – Swadini, Blyde River, Mpumalanga
Photo by Andries DeVries

Behaviour

Highly elusive and easily overlooked. Interestingly larvae, exuvia and adult females are found more often than adult males. The males appear to spend much of their time in the shade of bushes and trees some meters from the river. Active for only a short period during the hottest time of the day, where it sits on sunny boulders and reeds close to the water. Females are found among trees and bushes not too far from the water. Despite its elusiveness, the Eastern Scissortail is fairly tame and confiding.

Status and Conservation

Very little is known about this species. The paucity of records from throughout its range suggests Microgomphus nyassicus is rare, but more data is needed. It is currently listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

An exuvia, believed to belong to this species was found at Oribi Gorge, KwaZulu-Natal in 1988. Another was found near the Komati River, Mpumalanga in 2018.

The first record of an adult in South Africa, was by Antoinette Snyman on the Blyde River, Mpumalanga in May 2019. See the identification image above.

Distribution

Erratically distributed in South-East Africa. Recorded from Southern DRC, Northern Zambia and Malawi as well as the border region between Zimbabwe and Mozambique and a few scattered locations in South Africa.

In South Africa it has been recorded from the Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

There are no maps for this species at present.

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.