Genus Eleuthemis Ris, 1910

Type species: Eleuthemis buettikoferi Ris, 1910


The genus is endemic to tropical Africa. Although E. buettikoferi was long considered to be the only species, Eleuthemis was expanded to five species in 2015 and is likely to include at least another two or three. Males are fairly small (hindwing 23-28 mm) but conspicuous: flitting about under overhanging vegetation of forested riverbanks, they may be mistaken for a chlorocyphid. Eggs are laid in big clumps on leaves or roots submerged in the flow. Two species may coexist locally: for example, in western Africa E. buettikoferi and E. umbrina can occupy the same streams, favouring the sunny and shady sections respectively. The short and broad abdomen is almost white pruinose (with orange in E. eogaster) above and orange or yellow below, standing out when displayed in the gloom. The wings, especially forewings, often have dark tips. Hamule shape, open venation, oviposition substrate, larval morphology and genetics show that, despite its superficial dissimilarity, Eleuthemis is closely related to Malgassophlebia. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014]


Male of genus is similar to Diplacodes by (a) frons and vertex of different colour (e.g. brown or red), more uniform (e.g. less contrasting yellowish dorsally and brown ventrally), or dorsum darkest; (b) occipital triangle smaller with rather concave borders, eyes touching over distance of at least half its length; (c) face quite uniformly dull yellow, red, brown or black; (d) Pt never black-and-white and wings at most with dark tips or bases or with overall yellowish infusion; (e) Fw supratriangles without cross-veins; (f) Fw triangle of 1 cell; (g) Fw discoidal field of 1-2 cell-rows at base, sometimes 3; (h) 6½-10½ Ax in Fw; (i) Hw arculus in line with proximal border of triangle, sometimes just proximal or distal; (j) S1 without ventral process. However, differs by (1) arculus at Ax2 or distal to it; (2) subtriangle of 1 cell (rather than 2-3 cells); (3) Abd broad, S3-7 each slightly wider than long, with maturity ventrally orange, contrasting with pale pruinose dorsum. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014; this diagnosis not yet verified by author]

Eleuthemis buettikoferi Ris, 1910. Male © KD Dijkstra

Map citation: 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.


  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B. (2007). The name-bearing types of Odonata held in the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe, with systematic notes on Afrotropical taxa. Part 1: introduction and Anisoptera. International Journal of Odonatology, 10, 137-170. [PDF file]
  • Pinhey, E.C.G. (1961). Dragonflies (Odonata) of Central Africa. Occasional Papers Rhodes-Livingstone Museum, 14, 1-97. [PDF file]
  • Fraser, F.C. (1955). Odonata. Exploration Parc National Upemba. Mission G F de Witte, 38, 1-34. [PDF file]

Citation: Dijkstra, K.-D.B (editor). African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online. [2017-03-24].