Neotropical Odonata Specimens

Dennis Paulson
August 2002
Images added February 2009
Taxonomy updated January 2014

This site is intended to display scanned dragonfly specimens to assist in the identification of Odonata from Mexico and Central and South America. It was begun as a set of scans of species that occur in the Tambopata region of southern Peru, but it will be expanded to include as many species as possible, mostly those from my own collection. It will be a lengthy process, considering how many species occur in this rich region!

These specimens were scanned on a Hewlett Packard 4C/T flatbed scanner and captured by Adobe Photoshop. They were chosen as the best and most representative specimens I have available. Unfortunately, I lack high-quality specimens of some of the species, lack one sex of others, and completely lack many of the species known from South America, so the collection can never be complete. Nevertheless, I know of no other resource like this except the Odonata of La Selva site with similarly scanned specimens. The list of species below will have links to those scans available. I also plan eventually to link to handheld photos in life and photos in nature of as many species as possible. Many individuals were scanned before I began to record the collection data for each specimen, but that will be included in all future scans.

Some of these specimens are very close to life coloration, others quite distant. Eye colors change after death, and only those with brown eyes still look the same. Some of the species pictured here have brilliant red, green, or blue eyes, which gives them a much brighter aspect in life. For example, Micrathyria and Nephepeltia have brilliant green eyes, Anatya brilliant blue eyes, most of the red species brilliant red eyes. Black and yellow patterns, most reds, and blue pruinosity show up quite well in specimens. Many of the dragonflies of the family Aeshnidae that look brown as specimens, even the largely brown dusk-fliers such as Gynacantha, have limited or extensive green and/or blue colors on their bodies in life; Staurophlebia, for example, have a bright green thorax and brilliant green eyes.

It is important to look at the ruler beneath each specimen. The number is in millimeters, counting from the leftmost tick mark, and you will have to do some estimation of the actual length of the specimen. Most species don't vary much in size, so these measurements are of great value in identification. In some specimens for which there is no ruler, the hindwing (HW) measurement is given in millimeters.

This guide is best applied to preserved specimens or live individuals in the hand. Be cautious in using it to identify individuals at a distance, as size estimates will be much more difficult, and complex patterns will be harder to determine. Nevertheless, I hope these images will provide material for identification of specimens and in addition will make tentative field identification a bit more likely than if nothing at all was available.

I thank Rosser Garrison and Mark O'Brien for lending me specimens to scan.

Zygoptera

Polythoridae

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Calopterygidae

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Dicteriadidae

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Lestidae

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Perilestidae

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Heteragrionidae

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Pseudostigmatidae [now considered part of Coenagrionidae]

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Platystictidae

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Protoneuridae

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Coenagrionidae

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Anisoptera

Aeshnidae

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Gomphidae

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Libellulidae

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