Lined Claspertail (Onychogomphus supinus)

View the above photo record (by Gregg Darling) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the Lined Claspertail in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Gomphidae

Onychogomphus supinus LINED CLASPERTAIL


Medium sized

Length up to 48mm; Wingspan reaches 63mm.

Superficially similar to Crenigomphus hartmanni (Clubbed Talontail) in both size and general colouration. Onychogomphus supinus however, has very differently shaped claspers and the fine, diagonal lines on the thorax sides are a further aid in identification.

Additionally Onychogomphus supinus has unique wing venation, having a 2-celled anal loop in the hind wings.

Click here for more details on identification of the Lined Claspertail.

Onychogomphus supinus – Male
Ithala Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Alan Manson


Onychogomphus supinus inhabits clear, fast flowing rivers and streams. Prefers shallow stretches with an abundance of large rocks and with wooded or grassy banks. Typically found in hilly, mid-altitude areas.

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Habitat – Blyde River, Mpumalanga
Photo by Andries De Vries


Prefers to perch on rocks close to the water, usually in or near the mid stream. Flies low and fast over the water or vegetation when hunting or if disturbed. Hunts from a perch and quickly returns to settle again. Sometimes found on grass or bushes along the river bank. Females are seldom encountered.

Most Active from November to April. See Phenology below.

Status and Conservation

An uncommon and localised species. Listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Reliant on high quality riverine habitat, and as such does not make use of degraded or man-made habitats.


Onychogomphus supinus occurs in a narrow band along the escarpment of South Africa, from southern KwaZulu-Natal through Mpumalanga to Limpopo. Also occurs locally in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe and neighboring Mozambique.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Lined Claspertail 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.