Catshead Sprite (Pseudagrion coeleste)

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

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

Family Coenagrionidae

Pseudagrion coelesteCATSHEAD SPRITE

There are two subspecies of the Catshead Sprite in South Africa: Pseudagrion coeleste coeleste and Pseudagrion coeleste umsingaziense.

Identification

Small size

Length up to 38mm; Wingspan reaches 42mm.

Most similar to Pseudagrion assegaii (Assegai Sprite).

Differentiated from Pseudagrion assegai by being larger and greener. The Assegai Sprite lacks the hints of green on the thorax and eyes of the Catshead Sprite. Most importantly the two species differ in the shape of the black marking on the second abdomen segment. Pseudagrion assegaii shows a spear or assegai-shaped marking, whereas Pseudagrion coeleste has a marking that resembles the head of a cat.

Click here for more details on identification.

Pseudagrion coeleste – Male
Phongolo Nature Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Habitat

Frequents well vegetated still water habitats, such as pans, lakes, floodplains and dams. Particularly fond of sites with an abundance of waterlilies (Nhymphaea). Less often found along slow moving river sections.

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

Behaviour

Found close to the water where it perches on emergent and floating vegetation, especially waterlilies. Flies low over the water.

Recorded throughout the year, but most active from October to March (see Phenology below)

Status and Conservation

Fairly common but localised. Pseudagrion coeleste coeleste is listed as of Least Concern, while Pseudagrion coeleste umsingaziense is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Distribution

The Catshead Sprite is native to Southern and East Africa. Occurs from Angola across to Zambia and on to southern Tanzania and down through Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to the NE parts of South Africa.

In South Africa it is found Limpopo and Mpumalanga (Pseudagrion coeleste coeleste) and in Northern KwaZulu-Natal (Pseudagrion coeleste umsingaziense).

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