Slender skimmer (Orthetrum sabina)

Also known as: Oasis skimmer
GenusOrthetrum (1)
SizeMale abdomen length: 36 - 42 mm (2)
Female abdomen length: 35 - 40 mm (2)
Male hindwing: 35 - 40 mm (2)
Female hindwing: 38 - 40mm (2)

The slender skimmer is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The slender skimmer (Orthetrum sabina) is a striking green to greyish-yellow dragonfly with black markings (3). The sides of the thorax and abdomen are striped with black, and the abdomen is distinctly swollen towards the base. A small dark spot is present at the base of the hindwing (4).

Males and female slender skimmers are very similar in appearance (4).

The larvae of the slender skimmer reach a total length of 19 to 21 millimetres and have spines in the middle of their abdominal segments (3).

An extremely widespread species, the slender skimmer occurs from south-eastern Europe to Japan and south to Australia and Micronesia (1).

The slender skimmer occupies a broad range of slow-flowing and still water habitats, from ponds to wet rice fields and marshes. It is very tolerant of disturbance (1), and will sometimes occupy temporary water sources (3).

There is very little specific information available about the biology of the slender skimmer. Like all dragonflies, the slender skimmer starts its life as an aquatic larva or nymph, and passes through a series of developmental stages or ‘stadia’, and undergoes several moults as it grows (5).

The length of the larval stage varies between species, although it may range from a few weeks to several years. The larva emerges from its final moult having metamorphosed into an adult dragonfly with characteristic features such as wings and enlarged compound eyes (5). The wings of the newly emerged adult expand and harden rapidly, enabling flight soon after the final moult (5) (6).

After emergence, the adult dragonfly leaves the water and spends anything from a few days to several months feeding and maturing. It is in this maturation period where the dragonfly normally develops its full adult colour (5).

Although little is known specifically about reproduction in the slender skimmer, there is often fierce competition between male dragonflies for access to reproductive females. Females typically begin to lay eggs in water immediately after copulation, often guarded by the male. However, females of some dragonfly species can store live sperm in their body for a number of days (5).

The slender skimmer is renowned for feeding on other dragonfly species, including some species larger than itself (7).

There are currently no threats to the slender skimmer, which is a common species with an ability to thrive in disturbed habitats (1).

There are currently no specific conservation measures known to be in place for the slender skimmer (1).

To find out more about the conservation of dragonflies and damselflies see:

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:

  1. IUCN Red List (2010, April)
  2. Watson, J.A. (1984) A second Australian species in the Orthetrum sabina complex (Odonata: Libellulidae). Australian Journal of Entomology, 23(1): 1-10.
  3. Theischinger, G., and Hawking, J. (2006) The Complete Field Guide to Dragonflies of Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Australia.
  4. Subramanian, K.A. (2005)Dragonflies and Damselflies of Peninsular India - A Field Guide. Project Lifescape, Indian Institute of Science and Indian Academy of Sciences, India.
  5. O’Toole, C. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Insects and Their Allies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Moore, N.W. (Ed.) (1997) Dragonflies - Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Odonata Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
  7. Silsby, J. (2001) Dragonflies of the World. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.