Thursday, 24 December 2015

Coeliccia information and a new Coeliccia from Da Lat*

*Adjusted on April 15, 2016, after publication of this species in Zootaxa by Rory Dow as C. suoitia.

A few days back Philip Steinhoff sent me the links to the very interesting article he just published together with Gabriele Uhl on "Taxonomy and nomenclature of some mainland SE-Asian Coeliccia species (Odonata, Platycnemididae) using micro-CT analysis". It is worth the read, not only because of the interesting technique used to make visible the genital ligulae in old museum specimens, but also because it sorts out the names of some of the commoner Coeliccia species from Vietnam, by making clear the synonymy. For my blog this means that I have to change C. acco into C. pyriformis, I already used C. scutellum and C. cyanomelas (not C. tomokunii nor C. onoi).

Please use the below information if you want to access the paper. Do not forget to read on below the message that I copy from an email by Philip.

You can either get it straight on the Zootaxa homepage:
There, you can also get the 3D PDFs, which are published as supplement:

Or you can get it from Philip's RG page:

While on the subject of Coeliccia, yesterday I was birding in Ta Nung Valley in Da Lat and noticed an interesting Coeliccia. It had white superior appendages and blackish inferiors, which were also clearly longer. Otherwise it had a largely blackish abdomen, with minor markings on S10 or in some individuals also S9. The thorax had a yellow antehumeral stripe on black dorsum. It was clearly an unknown species (to me). Subsequently Rory informed me this is likely a species recently described and soon to be published. So no work to do for me, but a nice find. Below a few shots of specimens in hand and in the field.

The cool Coeliccia suoitia from Da Lat. This seems the mature type, of which I saw four.
Thorax in somewhat dorsal view. Note the white horns on the prothorax.
White superiors and longer dark-grey inferiors. In another individual the spots on S9 were absent and those on S10 more bluish and smaller
In lateral view some bluish on inferiors and lower part of superiors dark grey.

Another male out and about

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Holden - James Holden... James is back in Cat Tien - Microgomphus chelifer

I learned the other day that James is back in Cat Tien National Park. James already spent quite a bit of time there looking for dragonflies in the recent past and now is looking to add more to the list. A few days back he contacted me on an unidentified small gomphid. I was happy to help out and could identify it as Microgomphus chelifer thelyphonus. This species is known from Thailand, but new to the Vietnamese list. There is another Microgomphus species in Vietnam, M. jurzitzai, described by Haruki Karube, also from the south of Vietnam, but that species has quite different appendages. The epiproct for instance is much more "hooked". Here below a few shots of this interesting discovery.
James was also able to take a nice photo of Burmagomphus asahinai, which I also reproduce here. Let's hope he will discover more goodies in the next few months!

Female Microgomphus chelifer thelyphonus, courtesy of James Holden, at Cat Tien NP, 11 Dec 2015
The male of the same species, in hand, same date and place, courtesy of James Holden
Appendages of the male in dorsal view. What looks like two pins extending from the epiproct are in fact two branches originating from the cerci.

And a nice photo of a species already recorded from Cat Tien by James: male Burmagomphus asahinai, photo taken in 22 August 2015, courtesy of James Holden

Sarasaeschna gaofengensis - The Tu Le species novum has a name

I received the article describing Sarasaeschna gaofengensis Yeh & Kiyoshi, 2015  last week from Wen-Chi. The description is based on a male caught in mid June at Gaufeng, Lufeng county, in Yunnan Province (China). The specimen was collected at a little over 2000m altitude. When I notified Wen-Chi this year in May that I had caught an unknown Sarasaeschna in Yen Bai Province, he alerted me to the fact that the very same species was being described and would be published soon, from Yunnan. Sarasaeschna species have a short flight period and are generally difficult to find, so discovering them almost simultaneously, give or take a year, in China and Vietnam, is quite a coincidence. In Vietnam the species was found at approximately 1000m asl, so considerably lower than in Yunnan. Below I reproduce the picture of a male in lateral view and come-ups of the appendages.

It has a name! Male Sarasaeschna gaofengensis from Tu Le, Yen Bai Province, 15 May 2015.

Appendages in dorsal view

And the same in ventral view

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The male of Gynacantha basiguttata and a male G. japonica thrown in

November 21 I went to Huu Lien to look for the enigma Planaeschna cf. guentherpetersi again, but did not see it. I did catch an Aeshnid that passed overhead in the forest and was very happy to find it was a splendid male Gynacantha basiguttata. I had caught the female a few weeks back too. Apparently it is not that rare inside the forest. The other cool thing I saw was a communal roost of Cratilla lineata. I had seen that in Potamarcha congener, but this was new knowledge to me. At least 15 bundled together on a hanging twig.

On November 22 I went to Xuan Son and looked for the small pale-faced Planaeschna there. I did see one female, but failed to catch it. It was mostly an uneventful day, but I saw a few Gynacantha japonica and was able to take some pictures. Another unexpected species was Trithemis pallidinervis at the river crossing, which I had not seen this far north. And a fine male Ceriagrion bellona was another nice one. Not at all that common, although regular at Xuan Son.

Very fine male Gynacantha basiguttata, note the dark wingbases.

Scan of the same male. Note the long and slender epiproct and the wingbases.

Pretty male Ceriagrion bellona

Gynacantha japonica, note the pale epiproct.

And a surprise female Trithemis pallidinervis

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Coeliccia sp. - an intriguing species from central Vietnam*

*This posting was originally on C. montana, but it is now clear, after studying of the type material, that this species has been misidentified by Asahina. It is in fact an undescribed species and will shortly be published.

The last weekend of September I was hunting for dragons along the streams of Quang Nam Province near Bhalee village. I found a handful of pretty, smallish Coeliccia that I did not see before. Superficially they are similar to the even smaller undescribed species occurring in Cuc Phuong National Park and Huu Lien Nature Reserve, especially the males. The males have a black dorsum to the thorax, with two yellow spots at the proximal end, although larger and more elongated than in the C. sp. nov. They also have a black line along the metapleural suture absent in that species. Another difference is the abdominal pattern, which has much clearer rings. And very interestingly, they have a pruinose prothorax. I know only of C. ambigua as having pruinosity, but that also covers most of the thorax. It looks rather similar to the Indian C. schmidti Asahina, 1984, but that species misses the pruinosity on the prothorax, amongst other minor differences, and has a very different female, with bright yellow prothorax and broad antehumeral stripes. The female of the present species has a very distinctive prothorax with horns on the posterior lobe, reminiscent of the Indian C. vacca Laidlawi, 1932. It is different from the C. sp. nov. also by its thorax pattern, which has a thin antehumeral stripe, broader at the proximal end. Sadly, I let it get away (good for her) so do not have a close-up of the exact configuration.

I identified the species after consultation with Philip Steinhoff and Do Manh Cuong as C. montana Fraser, 1933. Although in their redescription of 2013 they did not mention the pruinosity and although the specimen they illustrated had "paddle sticks", meaning that the yellow spots on the thorax are elongated at the distal end into a thin antehumeral line, penile organ and appendages are a close match. Philip mentioned that specimens he considered C. montana from Da Nang also missed the paddles and that a female from the same location as those males also had the distinctive horns. What is more, on photos of his preserved specimen from the redescription pruinosity is visible on the prothorax (considered dust at the time). It therefore seems reasonable to assume the northern specimens of C. montana miss the paddle sticks of their southerly brothers. Remains the original description by Fraser, which mentions pale blue rather than yellow for both the lateral sides of the thorax as for the antehumeral stripe, although facial markings are yellow. It is possible that the change in colour is due to postmortem change, or due to preservation. Fraser also describes the abdominal tip (S9-10) as blue dorsally and laterally, but black ventrally, for adult, the blue replaced by yellow in immatures. The description also does not mention the pruinosity on the prothorax. Fraser's specimen is from Laos, whereas the redescription of the species by Asahina (1969) from southern Vietnam describes the pattern on the thorax as yellow and the abdominal tip as yellow all around. Nevertheless Asahina concludes his specimen agrees "rather well" with the type specimen in the British Museum of Natural History. Given how close many species resemble others, "rather well" seems not so convincing, especially given the differences in color and patterning. If Asahina's species is not C. montana, then the species redescribed by Steinhoff & Do also is not C. montana. In identifying my specimens as C. montana I therefore mean C. montana sensu Steinhoff & Do. Philip is trying to inspect the type in the BMNH, which may help to set the record straight.

*It is now sufficiently clear that "southern" and "northern" montana in fact are two different species and neither is C. montana. Both are currently being described.

Male Coeliccia montana. Note the darkish abdomen, pruinose prothorax, yellow dorsal spots on the thorax.

The female in hand. If you look carefully, you can see the distinctive horns on the prothorax posterior lobe

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Several new species of Protosticta for Vietnam*

*This posting was adjusted on April 7, 2016, when the name of this species was first published (Phan & Kompier, 2016) as Protosticta socculus. This species can be identified by the shape of the appendages (under the microscope, I am afraid).

At the end of September I observed several boldly patterned Protosticta specimens in Quang Nam Province, close to Da Nang in central Vietnam. I cannot publish them here yet, for their identity was a puzzle. In the meantime I have been working with Toan, who did the ground work for it, on an article on Protosticta species and this species is one of several we hope to publish soon. It is close in appearance to several other species with bold patterning of the thorax, like P. khaosoidaoensis, P. linnaei, and P. caroli. An intricate puzzle for sure. Once you get into the detail, this is a fantastic genus of many hard to identify species.

Protosticta sp. nov. from Bhalee, Quang Nam Province. Note the largely whitish prothorax, the boldly patterned synthorax and the pattern on the abdominal segments of whitish basal rings and brownish subapical rings. The true identification character is the shape of the inferior appendages.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Sa Pa in autumn

This weekend I went to Sa Pa, because the weather forecast said the weather was going to be beautiful and because in Hanoi it was going to be mediocre. Well, Sunday it rained in Sa Pa and Hanoi was sunny. But Saturday was bright indeed. Even so, there were only 4 species still around. Anax nigrofasciatus and Ceriagrion fallax were two of these. Really common still was Sympetrum hypomelas. And Palpopleura sexmaculata was also still about. One mature male, but also a freshly emerged female, which was a bit of a surprise.

Birds were actually much more interesting. I ran into a Wood Snipe at a swampy woodland at 2000m along a small stream, which was a lifer for me and a really rare and difficult bird. That surely made up for the weather and the lack of dragons. The "tricolor" subspecies of Long-tailed Shrike was another surprise.

The male of Sympetrum hypomelas is a stunning creature.
Yet another one

When in the morning of Sunday the sun was still out, I climbed a mountain side without my camera and bumped into this female. So I took a photo with my telephone. Not too bad. I did not know the females turned this red late in the season, but they do. The red is restricted to the dorsal area between the lateral stripes on the abdomen.

Male Palpopleura sexmaculata. This species is awkward to take pictures of in close-up, because they keep their bodies at an angle and also drop their wings forward. This is not too bad.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Gynacantha basiguttata in Huu Lien

Today I visited Huu Lien to try once again for the Planaeschna cf. guentherpetersi, but I failed to see it (although I saw two possibles hunting at tree top level in the late afternoon). But when I made my way back through the forest at dusk I saw quite a few Gynacantha. Most were immature G. subinterrupta, but one larger species whizzed by and was netted with a little luck. To my large surprise it had extensive dark basal patches to the wings: Gynacantha basiguttata. I had seen this species in the south, in Cat Tien National Park, but did not expect it at all this far north. After all, Huu Lien is almost in China. This is a large species. The female I caught was 76mm without the (broken) appendages.

Female Gynacantha basiguttata, a large species, easily recognizable by the dark wingbases.

Monday, 12 October 2015

So does Planaeschna guentherpetersi occur in Huu Lien or not?

On December 1, 2014, I caught a female Planaeschna in Huu Lien that seemed to be a P. guentherpetersi, complete with the typical dorsal and lateral pattern on S2. Please see the concerned post. The facial pattern however was much more vivid than anything I have ever seen in Xuan Son, where the species is quite common. So, when I discussed with Haruki Karube a little while back we decided that it was not likely these two were in fact the same species. But I had no material from Huu Lien for comparison (I may have released the specimen at the time, or it was eaten by vermin, anyway, I do not have it), so it was/is undetermined. I had a single specimen last year that flew off. Finally yesterday I noticed an Aeshnid in the dark of the forest flying about. It hung from a twig, but I could not get to it, so decided to make some pictures with flash. These made it clear is was a male, and that it was a Planaeschna for sure. It also has the same dorsal pattern as the female on S2. Interestingly, the pattern on the remainder of the abdomen and on the lateral side of S2 is the same as in P. guentherpetersi. The shape of the appendages, insofar as can be judged from the pictures is not at variance with that of P. guentherpetersi either. Although the fact remains that the female has quite a more pronounced facial pattern, it seems for the time better to assume this is a local variant than enough grounds to claim this is a different species. But of course, I will try to catch it at the next occasion. It would be great to sample the populations for DNA.

The enlightened photo of the Huu Lien specimen, showing the typical dorsal pattern of S2 and remainder of the abdominal pattern. Compare with the below scan of the Xuan Son male.
The Xuan Son male. Planaeschna species have a lot of variation in the pattern of S2 or the abdomen, so for these specimens to very similar is likely too much of a coincidence.

The Huu Lien male at a different angle, showing the intense green and black thorax pattern and the lateral pattern of S2, with the yellow auricle and two spots on the distal edge.  This is very much the same pattern as can be seen in the scan below.
See the pattern of S2 on this male from Xuan Son. No other species in Vietnam, out of the other 9 or so I have found, has a similar pattern, but the specimen from Huu Lien has it. See also the heel on the ventral side of the superior appendages, visible in both the scan and the photo. For what it is worth, of course.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Finally Matticnemis doi

In 2012 Matti Hamalainen published Platycnemis doi as a new species from Huu Lien Nature Reserve. In 2013 K-D Dijkstra, on the basis of both molecular and morphological evidence, moved the species to a new genus, Matticnemis. Matticnemis doi is the sole species in this genus. Obviously Matticnemis takes it name from Matti. The "doi" species name honors Do Manh Cuong.

I had been frustrated quite a bit that over the many visits a did to Huu Lien I had failed to connect with the species and this year around the end of June I spent several boiling hot days looking for it (Matti had collected the species on June 22). Huu Lien is still illegally logged and the area where the species occurs is opening up, which causes the forest to dry. Only very small sections of the streams are still covered by forest. Although I knew the exact place where Matti and Cuong had seen the species, it could not be found and I feared it had already gone extinct.

But today I went to Huu Lien to look for the possible Planaeschna species novum there and to my not small surprise I found two males close to the waterfall, perched on twigs on the forest floor along puddles from where the stream had resided. I was very happy. Of course I had not expected it in October, but apparently it has a long flight season. To my even larger surprise I later in the day found another 4 males and 2 females at the original location at the other side of the hills between the village and the waterfall. This means the species is in less immediate danger, as it occurs in several places, although these are both under a lot of pressure.

The first male Matticnemis doi close to the waterfall. A highly inconspicuous species, due to its dark colors. It is about the same size at Copera marginipes and C. vittata.

Another male, this one at the type location

The female has mostly the same pattern, but misses the swollen tibia of the last two pairs of legs. 

Saturday, 10 October 2015

A few hours in Vientiane, Laos and a new species for the Laotian list.

This Thursday I had a few hours to spare in Vientiane and took a cab to the outskirts of the town. Thank God the surroundings are not close to being as polluted as around Hanoi and I was able to find 38 species in a short time. Vientiane is about as far south as Ha Tinh in Vietnam, which is about the southern edge of my general research area (northern Vietnam). But its species are quite different, much more southern. There was a lot of overlap with the commoner species in Cat Tien National Park, for instance. I was happy to catch a Epophthalmia frontalis male. Yokoi & Souphanthong actually list 31 Macromiidae, 28 of them Macromia. Which is rather astounding. But anyway, I was happy with my frontalis. And I was able to take pictures of male Lestes elatus and female Ceriagrion cerinorubellum. I had seen both these species in Cat Tien, but had not seen these sexes. Below a few pictures. And another very common species in some inundated and apparently deserted rice fields was an Aciagrion. I had to go back to Ris (1911) and Fraser (1933) to find out what may be the differences between Aciagrion occidentale and A. borneese. The appendages look rather similar and the A. borneese I had from Da Nang had been eaten by vermin. But in the end the description of Fraser pointing out that S8 is blue with a black triangle on it in A. occidentale, whereas A. borneese has a broad dorsal black stripe over the whole segment, provided the clue. Photos from India confirm the pattern on A. occidentale, and I therefore conclude that the specimens I saw were A. borneese, on the premise that the pattern is consistent over the complete range of these species. Interestlingly Yokoi & Souphanthong do not list either of these species for Laos. A. borneese is a very common species in Thailand and that country is of course right opposite the river at Vientiane.

Let's start with the addition to the Laotian list, Aciagrion borneese. Note dorsally black S8 and S10, whereas S9 is marked by a thin blackish dorsal line.
Another male with the distinctive pattern

Female Ceriagrion cerinorubellum. Possible to confuse with C. auranticum because of the green eyes and orange-brown cranium. However, S3-7 are blackish above and blue-green laterally, not orange, and S9 misses the clear darker marking.

Lestes elatus female

And the male, which I had failed to find in Cat Tien.

And finally a fine male Epophthalmia frontalis

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Some interesting gomphids from Quang Nam

On 25-27 September I visited Quang Nam Province around P'rao on the HCM Highway. I ran into quite a few interesting gomphids and I would like to share here some of them. Price for most interesting on the 25th goes to a Leptogomphus species. Recently I had a conversation with Haruki Karube on Leptogomphus uenoi, for which he recently published the male. Before that the species was only known for females and one could argue that the male leads a secretive life. But we concluded that maybe it was just overlooked, as the appendages are rather similar to those of L. perforatus. Well, I caught a Leptogomphus and in hand concluded it was probably L. perforatus, but somehow the ring of the inferior appendages seemed closed and I decided to collect it. Lucky too, for at home it dawned on me this was L. uenoi! The outer edge of the inferiors is straight, but the inside edge curved.

Leptogomphus uenoi male, a typical Leptogomphus species

But look at the appendages! A neat ring and almost straight outer edges.
 On the 26th I bumped into a multitude of interesting species. I was very happy to see quite a few Nepogomphus walli. Males were congregating in a fern at a particular stretch of the stream. I had so far only seen this species in Cao Bang Province.

Nepogomphus walli in hand, with its typical yellowish wollen base of the superiors

One of the males perched, this one not on a fern

Also interesting was the Lamelligomphus sp. that I had seen in spring much further north, in Nghe An Province. It was quite common here.

Lamelligomphus sp., a smallish species with interestingly very dark S2. Some individuals had a small yellow spot posterior of the auricle. It is similar to L. hainanensis, but has no protrusion of the inferiors.
A real surprise was the Nychogomphus flavicaudus on a larger river, where 3 males were hovering in the middle of the day. There were no differences with the specimens from Cao Bang I recorded in spring. Same size and same pattern on the thorax (only an antehumeral spot).

Male Nychogomphus flavicaudus, at least, if flavicaudus is a valid species
The last cool species I want to introduce here is Burmagomphus divaricatus. I had only recorded a freshly emerged specimen in Cao Bang in spring, but here I saw several adult males.

Here is one of the males in hand. The pattern on the dorsal side of the thorax is a little variable.

Another, similar, male perched

And the appendages in dorsal view

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Anax immaculifrons - the fourth Anax

Driving from Da Nang to P'rao, just in Quang Nam Province, I finally caught up with what is in Europe sort of a legendary species, or at least greatly appreciated. And likewise, in fact, in Vietnam. Ana immaculifrons, a beautiful Anax species. Interestingly, I have not seen it in northern Vietnam, nor am I aware of any records here, but it apparently occurs both on Hainan and in Guangdong in China. In Vietnam is is known from the area around Da Nang, so in that respect it was not strange that I saw several on September 25. All where observed along clear mountain streams, where there where shallow pools. I did not see any females.

This was the first specimen I saw. It would perch for prolonged periods before going back to patrol flights.

The same male, but posed after I had captured it to take shots of the appendages

And this is what they look like in dorsal view

Another male, this one not posed, but posing of its own free will