BioMAPping at Home – Lock down on Biodiversity

These are trying times for all of us. It can be hard to stay focused, it can be hard to stay positive, but there are ways we can make the lockdown more bearable, and even fun! Connecting with nature is important, perhaps now more than ever. Nature is all around us if we take the time to notice (and right now all we have is time!). Connecting with nature has been proven to help us relax, reduce anxiety, and lift our spirits. Nature is good for us because we are part of nature.

Jewels of nature – have you seen this gorgeous butterfly in your garden? Now is the perfect time to discover the gems in and around your house. This beauty is known as a Gaudy Commodore or Rooi-en-blou-blaarvlerk. LepiMAP record by I.C. Riddell

If you have a garden, use the lockdown to explore your garden properly. Take your camera (cellphone, “mik-en-druk”, or DSLR, whatever suits your fancy) and see what you can find. Butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, frogs, reptiles, moths, these are but a few of the critters that you might find in your green patch. Keep a species list, take photographs, and whip out all those field guides you’ve been meaning to give a proper read. Try to identify all your garden critters. And, of course, don’t forget to upload your photos to the different sections of the Virtual Museum (where the members of the expert panels will be happy to identify your finds for you).

Okay, so you don’t have a garden? No problem! Step out onto your balcony, or open the window, get some sunshine onto your face and take a deep breath. Grab your binoculars and LOOK! Make a bird list, make a tree list, or sketch the sunrise/sunset. Take photos of any birds that you might see and upload those to the Virtual Museum.

Virtual Museuming in lockdown. Estelle van Rooyen photographs the birds she can see from a window in her home in Stilbaai, Western Cape Province. We tend to go far afield when we search for biodiversity, but where we live tends to be neglected. This is the opportunity to rectify this!

If you don’t have a garden, you can still biomap! Take a wander inside your home, go on a safari in your living room, kitchen, bedroom. Take a closer look, make a game out of it and see who can snap and map the most species inside the house. What do you see? Perhaps you will find one of these, a Marbled Leaf-toed Gecko Afrogecko porphyreus (photo below). These awesome geckos are like your own personal pest control unit, keeping your home free of insects. Remember to upload your photos to ReptileMAP at http://vmus.adu.org.za/

Marbled Leaf-toed Gecko – Sunset Beach, Cape Town: http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=ReptileMAP-168297

Biomapping can help us all to stay sane and connect with nature. Thank you to all the citizen scientists who have taken on the challenge to biomap at home. You are awesome! Let us know what you find by uploading your discoveries to the Virtual Museum and by sharing your photos on social media. Stay safe, stay curious and stay calm.

BDInsight – March 2020

BestMarch for the Virtual Museum

Awesome citizen science teamwork for March 2020. Together we achieved BestMarch late on the evening of 30 March 2020! Now we have the whole of today to push the RED dot upwards, so that there is a big gap between it and the dot for March last year (see the graph below).

In spite of the setbacks of March, we continue to build species distribution maps. Please work through your backlogs, and please see what you can achieve in the locality you find yourself in now during the lockdown. Well done, Team Virtual Museum. Thank you. Stay sane, stay healthy and BioMAP at home.

Citizen Science: a solution to the problems of the 2020s?

We did this crazy exercise at the BDI Citizen Science Conference in the Karoo! An independent organization** made a list of “cultural” issues which might need a “shift” in our values and beliefs. We had a discussion in which we considered whether “citizen science” could help with awareness of these problems, and help provide a shift in the attitudes, values and beliefs! This is their full list, verbatim, unedited!

What we discussed ran like this. “In what ways can ‘citizen science’ (i.e. involvement with citizen science projects) help make a shift on how people see these issues? How can ‘citizen science’ change people’s attitudes values and beliefs. In what way does the organization of citizen science projects need to be adapted to help mitigate these issues?” At first glance, some of the topics seem far removed from “citizen science”. How on earth does “citizen science” interact with “hopelessness”? But this is the challenge. In the BDI, our focus is on both “citizen” and “science”. The “science” part is easy; trying to mitigate the real problems of the day, through citizen science, is going to stretch us.

Citizen science is about community, sharing knowledge, biodiversity stewardship… and having fun!

We are compiling a report on this discussion.

We are under lockdown, and many of us are wondering what sort of world and society we will emerge into on the other side. So this is a great opportunity for each of us to spend a bit of time thinking about these topics. We invite our readers to write a paragraph or more on these topics, and we will compile them into the report. Please email your ideas to Les Underhill (les [at] thebdi.org).

Disconnection from nature – Today, some see humanity as something apart from nature – not integral to it. And many believe this is what’s driven our civilization to the brink of environmental collapse. So we need to further cultivate the idea that we are one with nature – in fact we are nature defending itself.

Hopelessness – There is indeed a lot that needs changing in this world, but one barrier to making change is a feeling of hopelessness that seems to be rising across society. Let’s inspire hope in people so they believe in their own power to change their world.

Nationalism and division – Division and hate are overpowering social media. But we are one people, one love. Let’s counter nationalism with a global sense of community and commonality.

Anger and trigger – We all have things that steal our cool. We call them “triggers”. And when triggered, people act most often from anger and anxiety. We need to cultivate a culture of “untriggering” – taking a deep breath and acting from more self-aware emotions.

Rape and trauma – Recently, victims of sexual violence have used social media to tell their stories, and overcome shame and deep pain. One important next step is to focus on the pride of surviving trauma and giving people a network of online support.

Division and hate – We are living in a moment of deep division, and there are few public models for how to talk constructively to people on the other side of the political/ideological spectrum. What if we learned to be better in our ability to disagree with strength and kindness?

Sexism, men and toxic masculinity – Let’s open up a discussion about how we can raise little boys free from the toxic stories about what “real” men should be – often portrayed as unemotional or unfeeling.

Lack of inspiration – Our heroes sometimes feel too grand for us. We don’t feel like we, in our regular lives, can be great based on these stories. What if we found ordinary people who have risen to this moment and done incredible things, and share their stories to inspire others?

Screen addiction and loneliness – We are living an epidemic of screen addiction, disconnection and loneliness. Let’s support one another in unplugging more, and cultivating and appreciating real-life deeper connection.

**Avaaz is the organization whose survey we used. This non-profit organization has, since 2007, promoted global activism on issues such as climate change, human rights, corruption, poverty, biodiversity and conflict. It is probably the world’s largest and most powerful online activist network. Avaaz describes itself as a campaigning community bringing people-powered politics to decision-making worldwide.

Climate Change and Willow Warblers

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilusBirdPix record

One thing we can be grateful for in this crazy time is that migratory birds are not taking the blame for transporting COVID-19. The migrant birds are now on their way north. In the midst of this chaotic week, Magda Remisiewicz (University of Gdansk, Poland) and Les Underhill (UCT and BDI) had a paper published about a long-distant migrant, Willow Warblers. In Poland, there’s a migration study site on the coast of the Baltic Sea near a small town called Bukowo. At this site the birds flying north have sea on their left, and a lake on their right, and are funneled through a narrow strip of land. Researchers from the University of Gdansk, assisted by lots of citizen scientists, have mist netted migrants in spring using a standardized system for decades. They have generated one of the best datasets for investigating how the timing of migration has varied through time.

It has been well known for a long time that migration is getting earlier, and Willow Warbler migration at Bukowo is getting earlier too. What sets this paper apart is that it develops a statistical model that “explains” nearly 60% of the annual variation in the timing of migration. The “explanatory variables” in the model are the big climate indices (such as the Southern Oscillation Index, responsible for El Ninos). Although the model was given “Year” as an “explanatory variable”, it chose not to use this. “Year” was “redundant”. The pattern of migration getting generally earlier was “explained” better by the long term changes in the climate indices. The paper used data from 1982 to 2017.

It is published in the Open Access journal PeerJ. Anyone can download the article for free: https://peerj.com/articles/8770.pdf

Abstract

Background. The arrival of many species of migrant passerine in the European
spring has shifted earlier over recent decades, attributed to climate change and rising
temperatures in Europe and west Africa. Few studies have shown the effects of climate
change in both hemispheres though many long-distance migrants use wintering
grounds which span Africa. The migrants’ arrival in Europe thus potentially reflects a
combination of the conditions they experience across Africa. We examine if the timing
of spring migration of a long-distance migrant, the Willow Warbler, is related to largescale climate indices across Africa and Europe.
Methods. Using data from daily mistnetting from 1 April to 15 May in 19822017 at
Bukowo (Poland, Baltic Sea coast), we developed an Annual Anomaly metric (AA, in
days) to estimate how early or late Willow Warblers arrive each spring in relation to
their multi-year average pattern. The Willow Warblers’ spring passage advanced by
5.4 days over the 36 years. We modelled AA using 14 potential explanatory variables
in multiple regression models. The variables were the calendar year and 13 large-scale
indices of climate in Africa and Europe averaged over biologically meaningful periods
of two to four months during the year before spring migration.
Results. The best model explained 59% of the variation in AA with seven variables:
Northern Atlantic Oscillation (two periods), Indian Ocean Dipole, Southern Oscillation
Index, Sahel Precipitation Anomaly, Scandinavian Index and local mean temperatures.
The study also confirmed that a long-term trend for Willow Warblers to arrive earlier
in spring continued up to 2017.
Discussion. Our results suggest that the timing of Willow Warbler spring migration
at the Baltic Sea coast is related to a summation of the ecological conditions they
had encountered over the previous year during breeding, migration south, wintering
in Africa and migration north. We suggest these large-scale climate indices reflect
ecological drivers for phenological changes in species with complex migration patterns
and discuss the ways in which each of the seven climate indices could be related to
spring migration at the Baltic Sea coast.

Sailing Bluet (Azuragrion nigridorsum)

The photo above (by Bernardine Altenroxel) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

Azuragrion nigridorsum, the Sailing Bluet or Black-tailed Bluet, is a species of damselfly in the family Coenagrionidae.

Identification

Very small size

Length up to 28mm; Wingspan attains 33mm.

Often found alongside the Africallagma glaucum, but is easily differentiated by its deeper blue colour and black protrusion onto the eighth segment of the abdomen.

The females are similar to other Bluet females, and are best identified by their association with the males.

Azuragrion nigridorsum – Near Hluhluwe, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Habitat

A species of well vegetated, still water environments such as dams, ponds, marshes, pools and the quiet backwaters of rivers and streams. Azuragrion nigridorsum usually occupies areas with floating and emergent plants like waterlilies and sedges and is frequently found near floating mats of green algae.

Typical habitat – Near Hluhluwe, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Behaviour

Mostly found low down close to the water where it perches on lily pads or emergent plants. The flight is fast and typically low over the water. When the weather is calm they sometimes land gently on the water without breaking the surface. They then drift across the pond in the breeze with their folded wings acting as sails. The females are often found in the same vicinity as the males.

Status and Conservation

The sailing Bluet is a common and widespread species. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Azuragrion nigridorsum is moderately sensitive to habitat damage, but has adapted well to man-made habitats and has doubtless benefited from this.

Distribution

Azuragrion nigridorsum is found from Ethiopia in the north, down through most of East and Southern Africa, including Angola and Zambia. In South Africa it is mostly absent from the dry central region.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Sailing Bluet in South Africa. Taken from 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.

Sailing Bluet OdonataMAP record by Felicity Grundlingh

Orange Wisp (Agriocnemis ruberrima)

The photo above (by Diana Russell) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

Agriocnemis ruberrima is a damselfly genus in the family Coenagrionidae.

There are two distinct subspecies, Agriocnemis ruberrima ruberrima (NE South Africa) and Agriocnemis ruberrima albifrons (Botswana to Angola and Zambia). Further studies may find they are in fact separate species.

Identification

Tiny size

Length reaches 23mm; Wingspan up to 28mm.

Adult males are readily identifiable due to the almost luminous all orange-red abdomen.

Agriocnemis ruberrima – Kosi Bay, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo By Ryan Tippett

Habitat

Inhabits shallow, swampy and grassy fringes of seasonal ponds, pans and marshes. Most often found in open, coastal grassland areas.

Habitat – Near Kosi Bay, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Behaviour

Inconspicuous due to its minute size and habit of sitting low down among grass stems above the water.

Status and Conservation

The northern albifrons subspecies is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The South African ruberrima subspecies is uncommon and due to its small, restricted distribution is listed as Endangered on the Red List. Agriocnemis ruberrima ruberrima is intolerant of habitat degradation and only found in pristine habitat. A large amount of its range is currently protected within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Distribution

Agriocnemis ruberimma albifrons occurs in the Okavango region of northern Botswana and in the Caprivi strip of Namibia. It is also found in northern Zambia and at a few scattered locations in Angola. The subspecies Agriocnemis ruberrima ruberrima has so far only been recorded from the coastal plain of north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. It could also occur marginally in neighboring southern Mozambique.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Orange Wisp 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.

Painted Sprite (Pseudagrion hageni)

The photo above (by Ilse Hulme) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

Pseudagrion hageni or Painted Sprite is a species of damselfly in the family Coenagrionidae.

Identification

Small to Medium sized

Length reaches 46mm; Wingspan attains 58mm.

This species has a distinctly elongate appearance.

There are two distinct sub-species in South Africa. Race tropicanum has bright yellow-green thorax sides and antehumeral stripes. Race hageni has bright orange thorax sides and antehumeral stripes.

Pseudagrion hageni tropicanum – Near Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal
©Ryan Tippett 2020

Habitat

The Painted Sprite is a shade loving species. It inhabits slow-flowing parts of forested or densely wooded streams and rivers, often with a jumbled undergrowth of tall grasses, bushes, sticks and ferns etc. They are often found where the tree canopy is closed over. However they also occur at glades and clearings within this habitat, but never far from shade. Pseudagrion hageni also occurs in dark swamp forest along the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

Requires clean water, and is often found in places where the water is dark and tannin stained. Painted sprites are intolerant of turbid, muddy water.

Habitat – Kosi Bay, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Behaviour

Almost always found in deep shade areas where males perch on plant stems over the water. The males are conspicuous due to their bright colouration. Frequently hovers for a few seconds close to the water. The females can be found in the same area as the males but often perch higher up and further away from the water.

Status and Conservation

Pseudagrion hageni is a common but localised species. It is listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red list of Threatened Species. This species is moderately sensitive to habitat disturbance and can be found at suitable man-made habitats, and in areas with some alien plants.

Distribution

It is found from the Western Cape in South Africa to Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Painted Sprite in South Africa. Taken from 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.

Sapphire Bluet (Africallagma sapphirinum)

The photo above (by Wil Leurs) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

Africallagma sapphirinum, the Sapphire Bluet, is a species of damselfly in the family Coenagrionidae.

Identification

Very small

Length up to 28mm; Wingspan reaches 40mm.

Similar to other Bluet species but both sexes are easily recognised by the distinctive abdomen markings.

Africallagma sapphirinum – Near Kokstad, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Alan Manson

Habitat

Found in highveld grassland, where its natural habitats are vegetated ponds, dams and lakes. Favours water bodies with floating and half submerged aquatic plants.

Habitat – Wakkerstroom, Mpumalanga
©Ryan Tippett 2020

Behaviour

Sits close to the water on vegetation. It is an alert and weary species. Flies low across the water when disturbed.

Status and Conservation

Africallagma sapphirinum is a common but localised species. It is listed as Least concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Sapphire Bluet is moderately sensitive to habitat disturbance. It occurs commonly at suitable man-made dams and ponds, including those with some alien plant growth. Within its habitat range, this species has no doubt benefited from making use of artificial impoundments.

Distribution

It is endemic to the highveld of South Africa, where it is locally common. There is an isolated population in the Cedarberg, Western Cape.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Sapphire Bluet 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.

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.

Darting Cruiser (Phyllomacromia picta)

The photo above (by Gary Brown) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

Phyllomacromia picta is a species of dragonfly in the family Macromiidae.

Identification

Medium to Large

Length up to 58mm; Wingspan reaches 81mm.

Sexes are similar in appearance. Females are more robust and lack the yellow/white claspers of the male.

Phyllomacromia picta – Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
©Ryan Tippett 2020
Phyllomacromia picta – Near Parys, Orange Freestate
Photo by Jaco Botes

Habitat

Its breeding habitat is mostly along rivers, often with well wooded areas above the banks. Phyllomacromia picta can also be found at large dams and lakes. They may be seen patrolling a length of river but are far more frequently found away from water. Non-breeding individuals can be found in a wide range of habitats, from forest edge to fynbos and open Karoo scrub far from water.

Typical habitat – Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Behaviour

This species is seldom seen perched. It is most often found patrolling back and forth along a chosen flight path. It will periodically dart off to chase prey before settling back into its regular route. The flight is smooth and fast. When perched a Darting Cruiser will hang from the underside of a twig or branch. The very long hind legs are probably a hindrance to perching horizontally.

Status and Conservation

Phyllomacromia picta is a widespread and common species, although seldom seen in large numbers. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It has a fairly low sensitivity to habitat disturbance.

It is likely under-recorded in the OdonataMap database. This is due to its fast, aerial lifestyle that can make it difficult to photograph.

Distribution

Phyllomacromia picta occurs throughout Southern Africa and its range extends through to Central and East Africa. In South Africa it is most commonly recorded in the North and East.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Darting Cruiser in South Africa. Taken from 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.

Darting Cruiser record by Arnold vd Westhuizen: http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=OdonataMAP-2083

Graceful Slim (Aciagrion gracile)

The photo above (by Walter Neser) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

Aciagrion gracile is a species of damselfly in the family Coenagrionidae.

Identification

Small to medium. Length up to 39mm; Wingspan around 46mm. It has a noticeably slender and elongate build.

Aciagrion gracile – Near Tshipise, Limpopo
Photo by John Wilkinson

Habitat

This species inhabits thick bushy verges of shallow grassy pans and marshes. Found in hot, humid woodland and forest regions.

Behaviour

Aciagrion gracile is a crepuscular species, that is most active at dusk and is easily overlooked The males are most often found between thick bush and grasses at the edge of the wetland. The females are usually found among emergent grasses and reeds further out into the water.

Status and Conservation

This species is uncommon and rather localised in South Africa. It has likely been under-recorded due to its secretive, crepuscular behaviour. In South Africa, due to its marginal occurrence, Aciagrion gracile is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is listed globally as of Least Concern as it has a wide distribution within the rest of Africa. The Graceful Slim is sensitive to habitat degradation and, for the most part, occurs only in undisturbed habitats.

Distribution

It is found from South Africa, up through east Africa to Uganda and Ethiopia. It also occurs in west Africa from Congo to Guinea.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Graceful Slim in South Africa. Taken from 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.

Common Threadtail (Elattoneura glauca)

The photos above (by Alan Manson) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

Elattoneura glauca is a species of damselfly in the family Platycnemididae known commonly as the Common Threadtail or Grey Threadtail.

Identification

Small size

Length up to 39mm; Wingspan attains 46mm

Females are easily confused with those of Elattoneura frenulata. In areas of overlap the two are best told by their association with the males.

Elattoneura glauca – Sodwana Bay, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Elattoneura glauca – Ndumo Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Habitat

Elattoneura glauca inhabits rank bush and grass alongside rivers and streams. It is usually found in and around grass and shady areas near the water. Most often associated with slow flowing water. Individuals, can at times be found further from water, in thickets and other rank growth.

Habitat – Pongola River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Behaviour

This species is sluggish and often reluctant to fly. Females are often found alongside the males. Most often perches low down among grass stems.

Status and Conservation

Elattoneura glauca is a common species throughout its range. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This species is quite resistant to habitat change and frequently makes use of suitable man-made habitats.

Distribution

It is native to the southern half of the African continent, where it is widespread.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Common Threadtail 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.