Smoky Duskdarter (Zyxomma atlanticum)

View the above photo record (by Richard Johnstone) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the Smoky Duskdarter in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Libellulidae

Zyxomma atlanticum SMOKY DUSKDARTER

Selys, 1889


Medium sized

Length up tp 47mm; Wingspan attains 72mm.

Most closely resembles Gynacantha usambarica (Eastern Duskhawker) . The Smoky Duskdarter is easily told apart by its far smaller size, different wing venation and by its large green eyes that have three rows of thin brown lines above.

Click here for more details on identification of the Smoky Duskdarter.

Zyxomma atlanticum – Male
Enseleni Nature Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Diana Russel
Inset images by Kate Braun


Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and shrub-dominated wetlands. In South Africa it occurs mainly in lush swamp forests along the northern KwaZulu-Natal coast.

Habitat – Kosi Bay, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Lauren Arnold


Crepuscular, being most active at dusk but is also active during humid, overcast conditions. Hunts by coursing low over tree-covered water bodies.

Rests by day in the deep shade of dense undergrowth. Hangs vertically when perched.

On the wing from December to April.

Status and Conservation

Zyxomma atlanticum is scarce and highly localised in South Africa. Listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


Zyxomma atlanticum is most widespread in the forested regions of West and Central Africa. Also occurring locally along the SE African coast in Southern Mozambique and far NE South Africa, where it ranges from Kosi Bay down to Richards Bay.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Smoky Duskdarter 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.

Smoky Duskdarter OdonataMAP record by Kate Braun:

Further Resources

Virtual Museum (OdonataMAP > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name)

More common names: Donker Skemerwerper (Afrikaans)

Type Locality: West Africa, no locality data available.

Recommended citation format: Loftie Eaton. M; Hofmeyr S; Tippett RM; Underhill L. Smoky Duskdarter Zyxomma atlanticum. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available online at

Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Ryan Tippett, Rene Navarro & Les Underhill
Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Ryan Tippett, Rene Navarro & Les Underhill
Megan Loftie-Eaton is our communications, social media and citizen science projects coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. 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 OdonataMAP project. Rene Navarro is the genius behind the Virtual Museum. 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.