117 555 Ceratogomphus pictus Common Thorntail 100 1122 Ceratogomphus pictus Common Thorntail Male Ezemvelo GP RSA Dec 2015r 1 100 1124 Ceratogomphus pictus Common Thorntail Female Ezemvelo Dec 2015r 2

Common Thorntail.  Gewone Doringstert.

(Hagen 1854)

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Images in nature. of Common Thorntail
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Male.  Male 1  Female.
Dorsal Thorax Identification Pattern:
Male   Female
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Short description:

Common Thorntail, Ceratogomphus pictus, Genus Ceratogomphusis, Family Gomphidae,is yellow, greenish yellow and brownish black, with a narrow club formed mostly by large foliations at the end of the abdomen. It has a sharp, forward-pointing dorsal spike (thorn, hence the name Thorntail) on the last abdominal segment.

Key identification features:

White, yellow, brown diagonal stripes on thorax. It has series of broken black and yellow rings on the abdomen with narrow strait foliations on S 9. The foliations have a diagnostic thin black line on the lower border. There is a strong forward pointing spike on s10 that folds into s9 when the abdomen is held straight rendering the spike invisible. When s10 is held in a downward pointing posture the spike is clearly visible. A dark variant is also found.
Females are brighter and have smaller foliations and no spine on S 10. A dark variant is also found.

Compared with other species:

Ceratogomphus triceraticus, Cape Thorntail is larger in size and overall darker than C. pictus (Common Thorntail) which is more yellow. Black markings on thorax, abdomen and foliation are considerably darker in C. triceraticus.

Distribution and habitat:

Endemic to southern Africa. Found all provinces except dry areas of Northern Cape Province
Prefers streams, rivers, standing waters and possibly large lakes in open landscapes and open areas in forest. Often with rocks and a gravelly and/or sandy bottom, probably especially calm sections (like pools) with coarse detritus. Also easily colonises newly created trapped bodies of water (unusual for Gomphids). From 0 to 2100 m above sea level, but mostly between 700 and 1900.


It perches on the ground, frequently rests on bare patches of soil or on a small boulder.

Further reading:

Distribution Map

A Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa
.  p 130
Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa ... p 131
The Dragonflies and Damselflies Of Eastern Africa ... p 106
Dragonfly Biotic Index ... p 122
Websites of interest:

Warwick Tarboton
A Visual Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of South Africa

Odonata Atlas of Africa VMU Number 664550
African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online
The IUCR Red list of threatened Species
Other Information:
Size Comparison Diagram: Dragonflies and Damselflies
Morphology of a Dragonfly
Sketch 1 and Sketch 2 and Damselfly
Map of South Africa


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