Harlequin Sprite (Pseudagrion newtoni)

View the above photo record (by Alan Manson) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the Harlequin Sprite in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Coenagrionidae

Pseudagrion newtoniHARLEQUIN SPRITE

Identification

Small Size

Length up to 32mm; Wingspan attains 40mm.

Males are brightly coloured and are most similar to Pseudagrion hageni. Pseudagrion newtoni is far smaller and the terminal segments are bright blue, extending from segment 10 up to segment 7. In Pseudagrion hageni, the terminal segments are purple-blue and do not extend onto segment 7. In addition, the two species occupy very different habitats.

Females are similar to those of many other Pseudagrion species. They are best identified by their association with the males.

Click here for more details on identification.

Pseudagrion newtoni – Male
Near Pomeroy, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Alan Manson

Habitat

Inhabits fast-flowing, rocky streams in upland areas. The preferred habitat consists of rich grasses, sedge and reeds overhanging clear, flowing water.

Behaviour

Although localised, Pseudagrion newtoni is often abundant where it occurs. Males sit in sunny locations among the stream-side grass where they actively engage each other. Females occupy the shady recesses of nearby bushes.

Recorded from November to March (see Phenology below).

Status and Conservation

The Harlequin Sprite is a poorly known species. It is Endemic to South Africa where it is rare and highly localised. Pseudagrion newtoni is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This species is intolerant towards degradation of its habitat and is not known to occur at man-made habitats. None of the known sites are formally protected and, in some cases, the habitat is at risk from overgrazing and trample damage.

Distribution

Pseudagrion newtoni is Endemic to South Africa. It is only recorded from a handful of localities in the uplands of central KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Harlequin 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.

Phenology

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.