African Threadtails

Family Platycnemididae       (Yakobson & Bianchi, 1905)


  • Close to 70 species found in tropical Africa and Asia (but not Madagascar) have been placed in the genera Elattoneura and Prodasineura.Although species from both continents have been assigned to both genera based on the relative length of the anal vein, genetic research indicates that all African species are more closely related to each other than to any Asian species. The traditional genera thus are not natural groups and all African species are best grouped in one genus, Elattoneura, with Prodasineura restricted to Asia


  • There are probably at least 30 species in Africa; all fairly small (hindwing 15-22 mm), finely built damselflies
  • Two species in South Africa
       E glauca, Common Threadtail
       E frenulata, Sooty Threadtail  Flag of South Africa.svg
General identification features
  • Males are pale with black markings at emergence, but become largely black with patches of white to grey pruinosity or bright colour (white, yellow, orange, or red) on face, thorax and/or abdomen tip.
  • These colours stand out as males hover low above water in their gloomy habitats. Most species favour sheltered spots along running waters.


  • May seek out shady spots, the species of the glauca-group with pruinose faces and mostly bluish eyes (E. cellularis, E. frenulata, E. glauca, E. nigra, E. pasquinii and E. tarbotonorum) occupy streams and rivers in rather open terrain, such as woodland, savanna, fynbos and grassland
  • The remainder (black or coloured faces) inhabit forested streams, some tending to be more open and sandy, while the others prefer deep shade: Some species occur on most streams and small rivers in their range, some prefer smaller and often rockier streams, (small) rivers, while others prefer sluggish water with more mud and leaf litter, the latter species (which is a species-complex; name likely to change) especially liking seeps. For a more detail description refer Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014


  • The genus is in need of taxonomic revision
  • Identification should be based on mature living males, as coloration and pruinosity change with maturation and are sometimes lost in preservation.
  • Images of males only are shown. View the female by follow the links to the main page
    Images are shown of species that are known to the website only and new species will be added as they become available


African Dragonflies & Damselflies Online 

"Dijkstra, K.-D.B (editor), 2016. African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online. (version 1 July 2016)."

Distribution data: "Odonata Database of Africa" and "Clausnitzer, V., K.-D.B. Dijkstra, R. Koch, J.-P. Boudot, W.R.T. Darwall, J. Kipping, B. Samraoui, M.J. Samways, J.P. Simaika & F. Suhling, 2012. Focus on African Freshwaters: hotspots of dragonfly diversity and conservation concern. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 129-134."