Dancing Jewel (Platycypha caligata)

View the above photo record (by Gert Bensch) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the Dancing Jewel in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Chlorocyphidae

Platycypha caligataDANCING JEWEL


Small size

Length attains 34mm; Wingspan reaches 52mm.

Adult Males are brightly coloured and easily recognised. Females and immature males are very difficult to separate from Platycypha fitzsimonsi females.

Females are best identified when seen alongside adult males.

Click here for more details on identification.

Platycypha caligata – Mkuze River, Kzn
©Ryan Tippett 2020
Platycypha caligata – Pietermaritzburg, Kzn
Photo by Christopher Willis


A species of perennial streams and rivers. They prefer shallow, flowing and rocky stretches that are flanked by overhanging trees, bushes, and less often reeds. Often found in shade under overhanging vegetation during the heat of the day.

Typical habitat – Pongola River, Kzn
©Ryan Tippett 2020


Territorial males are normally found low down, on a rock or twig close to the waters edge. The females are usually found alongside the males. They frequently sit in the sun but retreat into the shade when it gets too hot. Dancing Jewels are perch hunters, taking short, low flights across the water. Immature males often sit higher up, away from the territorial males. Platycypha caligata males are well noted for having an eye-catching courtship display. The male hovers in front of a perched female. His legs hang down vertically as he twists or waves them, alternately flashing red and white.

Recorded all year round in places, but most active from October to May (See Phenology below).

Status and Conservation

Platycypha caligata is a common and widespread species of the eastern parts of South Africa. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is reasonably resistant to habitat degradation and is not confined to pristine habitats.


The Dancing Jewel is found in eastern, central and southern Africa from Ethiopia to Angola and South Africa where it is widespread in the eastern regions.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Dancing Jewel 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, 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.