60 new African dragonfly species described
Only a fifth of the nine million species of animal, plant and fungus thought to occur on earth are known. Dragonflies (which include damselflies) are generally considered well-known but researchers have recently described 60 new species, the greatest number of newly described dragonflies in about a century.
11th February 2016
All dragonflies are bound to freshwater, which occupies less than 1% of the planet’s surface but is home to 10% of all animal species. The beauty and sensitivity of dragonflies is a perfect symbol for freshwater health and biodiversity. As dragonflies are good indicators of water quality, knowledge of these insects is important.
With the publication of the new discoveries, the number of dragonfly species known in Africa has increased from 700 to 760 species. Recognising and naming species, the science known as taxonomy, is crucial to conservation. We can only value and protect a species if we know it exists.
“The current emphasis on molecular research in taxonomy creates the impression that undiscovered life is inconspicuous or hidden, but each of our new species is colourful and easy to identify,” says lead researcher KD Dijkstra, a member of the IUCN SSC Dragonfly Specialist Group. “It’s a matter of going outside and knowing what you’re looking for. It’s a biologist’s greatest importance today. Names introduce species to humanity. All awareness, conservation and research of nature starts with the question: which species is that?”