Zoe Waterfall damsel (Paraphlebia zoe)

Male Zoe Waterfall damsel
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Zoe Waterfall damsel fact file

Zoe Waterfall damsel description

GenusParaphlebia (1)

The largest and most brightly coloured species in its genus, the Zoe Waterfall damsel (Paraphlebia zoe) is known for its beautiful, aesthetic qualities (1) (2). This striking damselfly is also valued for practical reasons, as it feeds on a variety of pests, such as mosquitoes (3).

The male Zoe Waterfall damsel occurs in two morphs, black-winged and clear-winged, with the clear-winged morph being very similar in appearance to the female. The black-winged morph is typically larger than the clear-winged morph (4).

The Zoe Waterfall damsel has two pairs of similar-shaped wings, which are held vertically over the long slim body at rest (5). It also has powerful, biting mouthparts, short antennae, and large compound eyes (6). Insects in the order Odonata, which includes dragonflies and damselflies, are unusual in that the legs are all crowded forward on the abdomen. This is an adaption to grasping prey in flight (3).


Zoe Waterfall damsel biology

Although the Zoe Waterfall damsel begins its life as an aquatic nymph, it spends its adult life airborne, and develops highly specialised wings for flight (3). As with other species of damselfly, the nymphs pass through a series of development stages, before undergoing metamorphosis and emerging as an adult. After emergence, damselflies have a maturation period, where they do not reproduce. During this time, the Zoe Waterfall damsel will develop its full colouration (6).

Both as a nymph and an adult, the Zoe Waterfall damsel is a voracious predator. In its nymph form it will eat other aquatic invertebrates, while in its adult form it will prey on flying insects. The eyes of species in this genus are specialised for detecting movement, and are therefore extremely well-adapted for capturing fast-moving airborne prey (3)

Not much is known about the mating behaviour of the Zoe Waterfall damsel, but it is likely to be similar to that of other members of the order Odonata. Both the adult male and female damselfly are polygamous, and the male recognises the female by colour and body pattern. The male Zoe Waterfall damsel will usually defend a territory, with the black-winged male Zoe Waterfall damsel defending a territory more often than the clear-winged morph (3) (4). The male damselfy will pursue and try to grasp any female, and then attempt to initiate copulation immediately. Copulation normally occurs near the site where the eggs are to be deposited (3). The male will often guard the female until the eggs are laid, to make sure that the female does not mate again with another male. The eggs are then laid in plant tissue (3) (6).

The black-winged male tends to have a shorter life span then both the clear-winged and female Zoe Waterfall damsel, possibly due to the costs of holding and defending a territory (7).

Damselflies are considered important components of food webs, and can be used as indicators of the health of the streams and lakes which they inhabit (3).


Zoe Waterfall damsel range

The Zoe Waterfall damsel is endemic to northeast Mexico. It occurs from San Luis Potosí and Hidalgo to Puebla, and Veracruz (1)


Zoe Waterfall damsel habitat

Generally occurring at elevations of between 200 and 1,200 metres above sea level, the Zoe Waterfall damsel inhabits subtropical and tropical forested areas, as well as freshwater streams in low mountains (1)


Zoe Waterfall damsel status

The Zoe Waterfall damsel is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Zoe Waterfall damsel threats

The greatest threat to the Zoe Waterfall damsel is deforestation of its natural habitat for commercial purposes, such as logging (1)


Zoe Waterfall damsel conservation

There are no known conservation measures in place for the Zoe Waterfall damsel. Population size and trends need to be established and any additional populations need to be identified. This species is not known to inhabit any protected areas (1)


Find out more

For more information on damselflies and other insects: 

  • O'Toole, C. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Insects and their Allies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Find out about conservation in Mexico: 



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:

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


In arthropods (crustaceans, insects and arachnids) the abdomen is the hind region of the body, which is usually segmented to a degree (but not visibly in most spiders). In crustacea (such as crabs), some of the limbs attach to the abdomen; in insects the limbs are attached to the thorax (the part of the body nearest to the head) and not the abdomen.
A pair of sensory structures on the head of invertebrates.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
An abrupt physical change from the larval to the adult form.
One of two or more distinct types of a given species, often distinct colour forms, which occur in the same population at the same time (that is, are not geographical or seasonal variations).
Stage of insect development, similar in appearance to the adult but sexually immature and without wings. The adult form is reached via a series of moults, and the wings develop externally as the nymph grows.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘class’ and above ‘family’. All members of an order have characteristics in common.
Mating with more than one partner in the same season.
An area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a group.


  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2011)
  2. Brusca, R.C. and Brusca, G.J. (2002) Invertebrates. Second Edition. Sinauer Associates, Inc., Massachusetts.
  3. Resh, V.H. and Cardé, R. (2009) Encyclopaedia of Insects. Second Edition. Academic Press, San Diego.
  4. Romo-Beltran, A., Marcias-Ordonez, R. and Cordoba-Aguilar, A. (2009) Male dimorphism, territoriality and mating success in the tropical damselfly, Paraphlebia zoe Selys (Odonata: Megapodagrionidae). Evolutionary Ecology, 23(5): 699-709.
  5. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) The International Wildlife Encyclopaedia. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, New York.
  6. O’Toole, C. (2002) The New Encyclopaedia of Insects and their Allies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  7. Munguía-Steyer, R., Córdoba-Aguilar, A. and Romo-Beltrán, A. (2010) Do individuals in better condition survive for longer? Field survival estimates according to male alternative reproductive tactics and sex. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 23(1): 175-184.

Image credit

Male Zoe Waterfall damsel  
Male Zoe Waterfall damsel

© Dr. Rosser Garrison

Dr. Rosser Garrison


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