Dragonflies and Damselflies:
Odonata of Monteverde, Costa Rica

Bill Haber, Electronic Field Guide Project, University of Massachusetts, Boston

David Wagner, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs

Also checkout the Odonata of Ecuador


Odonata in Costa Rica

About 270 species of Odonata have been listed in published records from Costa Rica. In addition, we have some unpublished records, and a handful of known, but undescribed, species remain to have names and descriptions published. The informal total is now about 290 species. The damselflies include 9 families and about 116 species in Costa Rica, while the dragonflies consist of 5 families and about 153 species. A tenth family of damselflies, Amphiterygidae, with one species occuring in northern Central America, has not been recorded from Costa Rica. Here is a database with images of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Costa Rica. Here is a checklist of the species included in the database.

Checklist of Monteverde Dragonflies

The area of interest for the inventory of Monteverde Odonata includes the main peaks of the Cordillera de Tilarán near Monteverde (1600-1800 m in elevation) down to about 600 m on each slope. This area covers most of the protected areas of the region, while excluding the strictly lowland fauna. All of the above families are represented in the Monteverde inventory, although the Protoneuridae are primarily lowland and barely reach 700 m. To date, we have recorded 138 species from this area. A checklist with images is linked here.

Identifying Odonata

The insect order Odonata, or dragonflies, consisting of about 6000 described species, occurs throughout the world in most fresh water habitats. The Odonata of the New World are divided into two suborders: the Zygoptera, or damselflies and the Anisoptera, or dragonflies.

Damselflies (Zygoptera) are characterized by a more delicate body construction than the dragonflies. The fore and hind wings are similar in shape and have narrowly stalked bases. The eyes are set on the sides of the head, which is distinctly wider than long and thus barbell-shaped. The abdomen is generally slender throughout its length. At rest, the wings are closed over the thorax and abdomen or held apart, though not usually completely horizontal.

Dragonflies (Anisoptera) can be separated immediately from damselflies by the difference in shape between the fore and hind wing. The hind wings are distinctly broader at the base than the fore wings. The head is more rounded with large eyes that often take up more than half of the surface area. In addition, the body is more robust. While perched, the wings are usually held spread apart and horizontal.

At the family level, wing venation and the shape of the eyes provide useful characters. Body coloration, genitalia, and wing venation are important for distinguishing genera and species. In the field, perching postures, size, color patterns, and behavior are useful. Here is a picture key for identifying families. A Java tree version of the same key is linked here (Java plugin required). The key was modified from Förster, 2001.

Here is a picture key to Rubyspot damselflies (Hetaerina) - HTML version or JAVA version.

Home Checklist with Images Family Key Family Descriptions References Study Site Map

Text and images copyright 2004-2011 by William A. Haber, http://efg.cs.umb.edu/
Created: 24 January 2006. Updated: 25 November 2011