Sunday, January 15, 2012

Protoneura: Sparks in the Dark




Considering that it’s January and that I can’t reasonably expect to see an adult odonate for a couple of months in the damp, chilly Pacific Northwest, I thought I’d take you back to Ecuador to profile one my my favorite genera of damselflies.

The Protoneura (21 known species) are small, but relatively long, skinny damselflies in the family Protoneuridae—the “threadtails” as they are known commonly. This is a mostly tropical family found circumequatorially, but three species make it as far north as southern Texas. Male Protoneura are often brightly colored, at least on the thorax, but they also stick to shady areas along forested streams where they can be difficult to spot. It’s not unusual to notice a bit of bright color suspended over a small stream, then realize that it’s part of a Protoneura hovering motionlessly.

Below are the four species of Protoneura that I have photographed in Ecuador. Two of them (scintilla and woytkowskii) were in the Amazonian lowlands and the other two (macintyrei and amatoria) were in the Pacific lowlands.

Male Protoneura scintilla in Sucumbíos Province, Ecuador. A rather dark species overall except for the orange "flames" on the thorax.

Male Protoneura woytkowskii in Sucumbíos Province, Ecuador. A lot more orange color on this one extending onto the tops of the eyes and the legs, as well as a bit near the tip of the abdomen. The hovering Protoneura at the top of this post is also this species.

Male Protoneura macintyrei in Los Ríos Province, Ecuador. Similar to woytkowskii above, but note the difference in thorax pattern and eye color.

And now my favorite...

Male Protoneura amatoria in Manabí Province, Ecuador. The vivid red color on these is spectacular and surprisingly difficult to spot in deep shade.

Pair of Protoneura amatoria ovipositing in tandem. Protoneura typically oviposit on floating vegetation and debris, the female bending her abdomen so much that it is wedged up between her wings and nearly comes into contact with her thorax; the male usually assumes an erect "sentinel" position, often flapping his wings to maintain support. This pair was ovipositing on a loose piece of wood and the flapping male propelled their little "boat" across this small stream-side pool, although I assume that was unintentional.

8 comments:

  1. Great photos of interesting damsels Jim! I can why they are some of your favorites. Thanks for brightening up a snowy winter day!

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  2. Wow, I love the detail & colors in these photos. Counting the winter days down til we can get back outside and see odes zooming by. Until then, I'm grateful to be able to ode-watch on blogs like this one!

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    1. Thanks, Susan. I am counting the days too!

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  3. I suppose this story makes up for having to wait for MONTHS between posts. Great work, as usual. I still have two or three Montana bugs to post to OC for your consideration within the next week or so.

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    1. I'm glad I have your approval, George! Sorry for the extended hiatus. I noticed that Dennis beat me to your last OC records. Keep them coming...

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  4. I'm not sure if this is making my ode fever better or worse! With our unusually great weather, I have been able to see three variegated meadowhawks over the last couple of weeks here in northern california, but it feels more like a tease. With the rains coming, I'm sure it will be a while again before getting to enjoy odes in persona...so these beautiful pictures and posts of yours will serve as inspiration in the meantime!

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    1. Thanks, Sandra. I figured there would be fever abatement for some and fever intensification for others. Either way, I have done my job...

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