Ceres featherlegs (Spesbona angusta)

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Ceres featherlegs head detail
IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable VULNERABLE

Top facts

  • The Ceres featherlegs was first described in 1920, but was not seen again until 2003.
  • An endemic of South Africa’s Western Cape, the Ceres featherlegs is known from just one pool near Villiersdorp.
  • The male Ceres featherlegs is bold blue and black with a greyish-blue and black face.
  • Habitat destruction and invasive tree species are thought to have contributed to the decline in the Ceres featherlegs.
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Ceres featherlegs fact file

Ceres featherlegs description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderOdonata
FamilyPlatycnemididae
GenusSpesbona (1)(1)

Thought to be extinct for many years, the incredibly rare Ceres featherlegs (Spesbona angusta) is a tiny damselfly that occurs in South Africa. Although the Ceres featherlegs was first described in 1920, it was not seen again until 2003 (3).

The male Ceres featherlegs is bold blue and black, with a greyish-blue and black face. The female has more extensive blue areas, but the blue is typically much paler. Like all damselflies, the Ceres featherlegs has four wings that are all of much the same shape and size. The clear wings are held along the length of the slender abdomen when at rest. This separates damselflies from the more robust-looking dragonflies, which hold the wings away from the body during rest (2).

Also known as
Ceres stream-damsel, Ceres streamjack.
Synonyms
Metacnemis angusta.
Size
Body length: 29 - 30 mm (2)
Hind wing length: 15.5 - 16 mm (2)
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Ceres featherlegs biology

Virtually no information is available on the behaviour, diet or reproduction of the Ceres featherlegs. However, many aspects of its life history can be assumed to be similar to other damselfly species.

Damselflies are carnivorous, aerial predators, which feed on smaller insects. Sometimes their diet may include other damselflies and dragonflies. Damselflies are prey themselves for many species, particularly birds, such as swallows and bee-eaters (2)

When mating, the male damselfly grasps the female on the neck with grasping appendages situated on the end of the long abdomen. Mating can last from a few seconds to several hours, depending on the species of damselfly. All damselflies lay their eggs on plants that are submerged in water. The emerging larva then undergoes several moults, before climbing out of the water at night, ready to make the final, dramatic transformation into the adult form. In the early morning, the larva swallows air, which expands the body so that the larva’s ‘skin’ splits, revealing the adult body. Blood then enters the delicate wings, which expand and harden before the damselfly takes to its maiden flight (2).

The adult Ceres featherlegs can be seen in the South African summer, between November and February (2).

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Ceres featherlegs range

Although originally recorded from the Ceres region in South Africa, the Ceres featherlegs is today known from just one pool near Villiersdorp in the Western Cape (4). Despite intensive searches, this species has not yet been found anywhere else (5).

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Ceres featherlegs habitat

The single pool occupied by the Ceres featherlegs is situated near a river. The pool is surrounded by bush and contains the water weed Aponogeton (6)

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Ceres featherlegs status

The Ceres featherlegs is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Ceres featherlegs threats

As the Ceres featherlegs is currently known from only one population and is confined to one small pool, it is at great risk of extinction (3).

The Ceres featherlegs is thought to have once had a larger range, but the stream habitat where it was recorded in 1920 has been dramatically changed and degraded, and some streams no longer flow due to over-extraction of water for agriculture and damming (3). Alien invasive trees are also thought to have contributed to this species’ decline, as they shade the streams and pools, altering the habitat (3) (5).

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Ceres featherlegs conservation

The removal of non-native trees around freshwater habitats has been vital for the survival of the Ceres featherlegs. The single pool where it is currently found is one of the sites at which invasive trees were removed (3).

However, as there is always the risk that these trees could re-grow, ongoing conservation efforts are critical to ensure the future of this beautiful damselfly (3).

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Find out more

Learn about conservation in the Western Cape:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Carnivorous
Feeding on flesh.
Larva
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Moults
In insects, referring to stages of growth, whereby the hard outer layer of the body (the exoskeleton) is shed and the body becomes larger.
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References

  1. The Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) (January, 2014)
    http://www.boldsystems.org/
  2. Samways, M.J. (2008) Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa. Pensoft, Bulgaria.
  3. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  4. Samways, M.J. and Tarboton, W. (2006) Rediscovery of Metacnemis angusta (Selys, 1863) in the Western Cape, South Africa (Zygoptera: Platycnemididae). Odonatologica, 35(4): 375-378.
  5. IUCN Species of the Day - Ceres streamjack (June, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/sotdfiles/metacnemis-angusta.pdf
  6. Samways, M.J. (2006) National Red List of South African Odonata. Odonatologica, 35(4): 341-368.
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Image credit

Ceres featherlegs head detail  
Ceres featherlegs head detail

© Dr Warwick Tarboton

Warwick Tarboton
Tarboton
P.O. Box 327
0510
Modimolle
South Africa
wtarbotn@iafrica.com

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