Damselflies

Zygoptera, Spanish: Doncellas (General), chupajeringas (Peru).

Damselflies are much smaller and weaker fliers than dragonflies. They always stay

Figure 6.3 DAMSELFLIES. (a) Ruby wing (Hetaerina sp., Calopterygidae), male, (b) Ruby wing (Hetaerina americana) nymph, (c) Giant damselfly (Magaloprepus coerulatus, Pseudostigmatidae). (d) Giant damselfly (Mecistogaster sp.), wing tips of male, (e) Common damselfly (Argia vivida, Coenagrionidae) nymph.

very close to the habitats of their nymphs, flitting from perch to perch in search of small insects, mosquitoes, and other flies on which to feed. Their bodies are often multicolored, but the wings, with a few exceptions, are entirely transparent.

There are 786 species of damselflies in 94 genera recorded for the Neotropics by Dias dos Santos (1981). The actual number will certainly go higher after the faunas of Amazonia and other remote tropical areas are more fully explored. These species belong to a dozen families, the largest and most common by far being the Coenagrionidae, dominant genera of which are Argia (fig. 6.3e), Acanthagrion, and Telchasis. Hetaerina (Calopterygidae) is also common and easily recognized by brilliant, deep red wing bases ("ruby spots") in the male (fig. 6.3a, b) (Eberhard 1986, Garrison 1990, Williamson 1923). Four families are exclusive to Latin America (Pseudostigmatidae, Polythoridae, Perilestidae, and Heliochari-tidae). There are no relictual taxa with amphinotic or Gondwanaland distributions, the Patagonian species having more northern relatives.

References

Hurlbert, G. Rodriguez, and N. Dias dos

Santos, eds., Aquatic biota of tropical South

America. Pt. 1. Arthropoda. San Diego State Univ., San Diego. Pp. 64-85. Eberhard, W. G. 1986. Behavioral ecology of the tropical damselfly Hetaerina macropus Selys (Zygoptera: Calopterygidae). Odonato-logica 15: 51-60. Garrison, R. W. 1990. A synopsis of the genus Hetaerina with descriptions of four new species (Odonata: Calopterygidae). Amer. Ento-mol. Soc. Trans. 116: 175-259. Williamson, E. B. 1923. Notes on the habitats of some tropical species of Hetaerina (Odonata). Mus. Zool. Univ. Michigan Occ. Pap. 130: 1-45.

Giant Damselflies

Pseudostigmatidae, Megaloprepus and Mecistogaster. Spanish: Helicópteros, chinchilejos (Peru).

Members of the small family Pseudostigmatidae inhabit mature forests from northern Mexico to southern Brazil. Members of the genera Megaloprepus and Mecistogaster are very large and showy insects. The sight of one of these gossamer creatures slowly flying through the trees, its wings tracing a blurred whirl above its body, is one of the loveliest of the rain forest. Some natives believe them to be human spirits that have recently become disembodied and insist that they be left unmolested (Klots and Klots 1959). These are enormous damselflies with somber body colors but gaudy

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