Mountain Malachite (Chlorolestes fasciatus)

View the above photo record (by Gerhard Diedericks) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the Mountain Malachite in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Synlestidae

Chlorolestes fasciatusMOUNTAIN MALACHITE

Identification

Medium to Large size

Length up to 54mm; Wingspan attains 64mm.

Males occur in two colour forms. About 70% of males develop striking black and white bands in the wings. The other 30% or so of males do not develop these wing markings.

Most likely to be confused with other green malachites that also develop the black and white wing bands. Closest to Chlorolestes tessellatus (Forest Malachite), from which it differs by having a thin, yellow humeral stripe on the thorax. This stripe peters out before the wing bases. The Forest Malachite shows a broad, yellow humeral stripe that reaches the wing bases. The Mountain Malachite is also slightly smaller and generally occurs in more open habitats than the Forest Malachite.

Click here for more details on identification.

Chlorolestes fasciatus – Banded Male
Sani Pass, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Chlorolestes fasciatus – Unbanded Male
Near Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Habitat

Frequents grassland streams and rivers in hilly or mountainous areas. Favours running streams with pools, and with fringing reeds, bushes, tall grasses and rocks. Usually found in open, sunny environs.

Habitat – Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Orange Freestate
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Behaviour

Most often seen as it sits on a grass stem or reed over the water. At rest hangs vertically with wings outstretched. Banded form males are very striking and conspicuous.

Most active from October to May (See Phenology below).

Status and Conservation

Common endemic. Listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. A fairly hardy species that sometimes inhabits slightly degraded streams and occasionally makes use of farm dams adjoining streams.

Distribution

Endemic to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.

Ranges along the length of the escarpment from the Soutpansberg in Limpopo, down through Mpumulanga, KwaZulu-Natal through to the Eastern Cape and Western Cape. Also inhabits the mountainous areas in Gauteng and the eastern Freestate. Rare in the Western Cape.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Mountain Malachite 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.

Phenology

The next two graphs shows how the occurrence of Mountain Malachites varies within the year, i.e. the phenology. There are only 425 records in the database for this species, so these results ought to be definitive. The first plot shows the number of records in each pentade, five-day periods, which start on 1 July and end on 30 June the following year. The maximum number of records in a pentade is 25, in mid-February. The blue line is generated by a smoother, an algorithm which aims to separate the “signal” from the “noise”, and shows the pattern of seasonality for this species. The second plot shows only the blue line, and it is scaled to lie between zero and one, for easy comparison between species.

The phenology plot shows that, over the range of the Mountain Malachite, this damselfly is in flight from November to April, with December to March being the months of most frequent occurrence. The peak abundance is in February. There seems to be a long, six-month build up to this peak, starting in September. The decrease in abundance is steeper, from March to mid-June. Between late-June and the end of August, the cold winter months, there are only two records for this species.

This might well be a species for which two altitude classes could be defined, with phenology plots for each altitude. To do this reliably, larger sample sizes would be helpful.

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.