The unique NOSE of  Chlorocyphidae damselflies

The head bears a unique upturned snout, or rhinarium, which projects far beyond the rather close-set eyes.

The rhinarium is the wet, naked surface around the nostrils of the nose in most mammals. It is an  area of hairless skin surrounding the nostrils. Colloquially it might be called a "wet snout".

But damselflies are not mammals, the function of  their rhinarium is unclear.

Libellago and Rhinocypha damselfly species are separated by unique Rhinarium (extended frons).



Family Chlorocyphidae

Libellago semiopaca  (Selys, 1873)

Libellago lineataThis species found in Sabah has no black tip on front wing. Probebly a new sub species. This same tipless species also found in Thailand (as in Asia

Rhinocypha aurofulgens (Laidlaw, 1931)

 Rhinocypha humeralis

Damselfly Family Chlorocyphidae of Sabah
and else where in Borneo Island

... a family with unique short abdomen...

1   Genus : Libellago Selys, 1840
  1 Libellago aurantiaca (Selys, 1859)
* 2 Libellago dorsocyana (Lieftinck, 1937)
  3 Libellago hyalina (Selys, 1859)
  4 Libellago lineata (Burmeister, 1839) Found in Sungai Tawau
* 5 Libellago phaethon (Laidlaw, 1931)
  6 Libellago semiopaca (Selys, 1873) Found in Sungai Tawau White Bridge
* 7 Libellago stictica  (Selys, 1869)

* endemic species that naturally occurs in only Borneo Island

2   Genus : Pachycypha Lieftinck, 1950
* 1  Pachycypha aurea (Lieftinck, 1950)

3   Genus : Rhinocypha Selys, 1842
* 1 Rhinocypha aurofulgens (Laidlaw, 1931) Found in Sungai Tawau
* 2 Rhinocypha cognata (Kimmins, 1936)
* 3 Rhinocypha cucullata (Selys, 1873)
  4 Rhinocypha humeralis (Selys, 1873) Found in Bukit Gemok
* 5 Rhinocypha moultoni (Laidlaw, 1915)
* 6 Rhinocypha spinifer (Laidlaw, 1931)
* 7 Rhinocypha Istygia (Forster, 1897)
* 8 Rhinocypha viola (Orr, 2002)

4   Genus :  Heliocypha Fraser 1949
* 1 Heliocypha biseriata (Selys, 1859)

5   Genus : Sundacypha Laidlaw, 1950
  1 Sundacypha petiolata (Selys, 1859)
* 2 Sundacypha striata (Orr, 1999)

6   Genus : Rhinoneura Laidlaw, 1915
* 1 Rhinoneura caerulea (Kimmins, 1936)
* 2 Rhinoneura villosipes (Laidlaw, 1915)

Family Chlorocyphidae

Chlorocyphidae damselflies includes some 140 species ranging throughout the old world tropics from the Solomon Islands to southern Africa. In Borneo this family has 21 species in six genera. Of these 14 species and two genera are endemic of Borneo.

They are robustly built damselflies and the abdomen is distinctly shorter than the hind wings, a feature not found among other Zygoptera.  (But with exception of male Rhinoneura)

The wings lack a distinct stalk and have numerous antenodal cross veins.

They typically inhabit clear forest streams and rivulets from the lowlands to 1700 m. Although generally small, the males are often dazzlingly beautiful, with bright markings on the body of every conceivable color. Some species also have brilliant metallic reflective patches on the wings.

In many species the legs are white on their anterior face. These markings are used either in displays of territorial aggression directed at other males, or in elaborate courtship dances which in many species precede mating. Typically the male swings back and forth in a semicircle about the resting female, invariably drably colored, displaying his wings or abdomen and flashing his bright white pruinescent legs; the degree of whiteness generally corresponds to his level of maturity. However there are many variations on this theme and a few species have abandoned courtship altogether. Usually eggs are inserted in fallen timber near to or under the water. It is quite common for females to oviposit in groups, sometimes including more than one species .

Males typically establish territories around log packs and attempt to mate with arriving females. Many species are very sedentary.

The larvae are stout with the caudal lamellae modified to form two long, thin, lateral cerci, the median lamella being reduced to a tiny remnant. They live buried deep in detritus or silt and are difficult to locate. A good method of collecting larvae is to remove quantities of leaf litter and spread it on a flat stone in the sun. The larvae reveal themselves as they crawl away from the drying vegetation.


Genus : Libellago

Seven species of Libellago are known from Borneo. All inhabit forest streams and forested swamp in low country. They are small insects (hw 15-20 mm ) but the males of most species are brilliantly colored on the thorax and abdomen. The forewing generally has a small dark terminal patch, reflecting deep blue in strong light. Females are a little larger than males, and drab. Most species cannot be identified with certainty, unless they are associated with a male. Despite their brilliant colors the males are easily overlooked as they fly just above the water surface or rest for lengthy periods on fallen logs.

Libellago semiopaca MALE

1) Libellago semiopaca perch on rock and dead wood on slow flowing mountain streams. They are found in lower Sungai Tawau at the same location with Libellago lineata. However their population is lasser then L. lineata and not often seen. Elsewhere they are found throughout Sabah including Danum Valley Research Center in Lahad Datu

2) Libellago lineata (hw, 17 mm) is a common species in much of tropical Asia.

In Sabah they are found in lower Sungai Tawau. (slow-flowing river feed by streams water from Tawau Hills Park and 10 kilometers to the sea).  They are locally found in certain spots and quit seasonal that there are time hardly one can be seen and there are time one can easily find 10 to 20 of male and female in just one morning.

It is slightly larger than Libellago aurantiaca from which the male is easily separated by its golden-orange, rather than red, abdomen with dark terminal segments. The female is similar to that of aurantiaca but has more extensive pale yellowish markings, especially on the thorax.

3) Libellago aurantiaca is slightly larger then L. lineata and is more reddish in color. Libellago aurantiaca  is common in slower lowland streams, typically with a sandy or silty bottom. Males are easily distinguished by their small size (hw 15-16 mm) and brilliant red abdomen. They perch around semi-submerged logs and sometimes ride floating leaves as they are carried downstream. At high population densities females oviposit in groups . In these situations intense and protracted contests between males are common. Two individuals face one another, hovering over favored territory, often contesting the right to court an ovipositing female. The species is widely distributed in Sundaland.

4) Libellago dorsocyana is also similar to L. aurantiaca in size and wing markings,  The male is unmistakable by the color of its abdomen, pale blue above with a black tip. It is known only from larger sluggish streams in south Borneo but is common where it occurs.

5) Libellago phaethon  is known only from north-east Borneo. It is fairly common but very localized on small clear streams at the Danum Valley Field Centre. The male is large for the genus (hw, 18-19 mm) and is vigorous in courtship and territorial defense. With its unique red and blue livery it is unmistakable.

6) Libellago stictica  is superficially a little like both aurantiaca and lineata, with the base of the abdomen yellowish-green grading to orange towards the tip. However it is larger than either of these species ( hw, 17-18 mm), and bears two pale green, leaf-shaped marks on the thorax, easily seen when it is at rest. It is known from swift forest streams in north-east and south-west Borneo and is seldom common. Unlike many of the smaller species, which remain on station for most of the day, Libellago stictica males tend to appear at the breeding sites for only an hour or so in the afternoon. They are particularly brisk in courtship.

7) Libellago hyalina is a slightly larger species ( hw, 18 mm-). It is very common in lowland swamp forest and little streams flowing through alluvial plains. In coloration and behavior it is atypical of the genus. The males are darkly marked, the abdomen glowing purple or magenta in full sunlight, but almost black in preserved specimens. The wings are unmarked and the legs are totally black. Male territorial contests are unlike those of other species and there is no suggestion of courtship by males. Females are seized as they enter a male's territory to lay their eggs. They oviposit in root masses and floating vegetation. The female is easily distinguished from other Libellago females by the markings at the sides of the synthorax. The pterostigma is white in immature females  but later turns dark brown. .

 Genus : Pachycypha

Pachycypha aurea is the sole member of its genus. It occurs only in south-east Borneo around streamlets in swampy lowland forest. It is a tiny insect (S hw, 14 mm), easily recognized by its clear wings with extensive yellow basal tinting in the male. The male abdomen is exceptionally broad in proportion and colored golden yellow above. The bases of the female's wings are tinted brownish, replacing the yellow of the male, and the body is pruinescent in mature specimens. It has been found together with Libellago hyalina.

 Genus :  Rhinocypha

Seven species of Rhinocypha are known from Borneo. Six are endemic. They all inhabit pristine rocky streams and rivers in primary forest ranging from the lowlands to about 1500 m. The males include some of the most dazzlingly colored Odonata found anywhere. They are distinctly larger than Libellago and some species are very conspicuous. The females are mostly rather drab and difficult to separate.

 1) Rhinocypha humeralis  This species common in the forest streams of in lowland forest National Parks in Sabah but not else where in developed area. They are easily seen by visitors to natural parks such as Danum Valley Forest Reserve,  Madai Waterfall and Bukit Gemok Forest Reserve.

The male abdomen is black above with a string of bright blue streaks along the side.

Both wings are darkly marked at last half but lack strong reflective patches like those in  Euphaea subcostalis

During territorial disputes the abdomen is held straight, even slightly depressed, but the protagonists often sway from side to side, perhaps displaying the lateral marks. The forewings are held well forward in an aggressive 'stationary-wing display'.

 2) Rhinocypha aurofulgens are found only in North Borneo (Brunei and Sabah)

This species is also common in the forest streams of in lowland forest Parks in Sabah such as Tawau Hills Park and Danum Valley Forest Reserve.


Males stand out with their brilliant blue abdomens and copper -tipped wings even as they perch in sunlight on twigs emerging from the water. Even more spectacular are their territorial contests. Two males face each other with tips of their abdomens cocked sharply upwards. They hover together in a gently modulated ascending flight, following each other's movements as though connected by an elastic band. This cycle is repeated time and again for periods of up to half an hour and the glint of light from their iridescent orange wing tips is easily visible from 100 meters.

 3) Rhinocypha cucullata  is found in similar habitats but sometimes occurs on slower silty streams. It ranges throughout Borneo. It is usually found in lower densities than the previous species but its territorial behavior is very similar. If anything, males are less tolerant of each other's presence. By cocking the abdomen upwards they seem to display the violet mark at the tip. The underside of their wings, broader than those of aurofulgens, bears a brilliant greenish-golden metallic patch. The flashes of sunlight reflected from the wings during territorial disputes are conspicuous from far away.

The legs of cucullata males have expanded, powder-blue tibiae. The courtship display of splayed legs and blurring iridescent wings is spectacular. Females are guarded after mating.

 4) Rhinocypha  viola  belongs to the same group as aurofulgens and cucullata but is less brightly colored. Its wings lack strong metallic patches. However male territorial behavior is just as in the other two species. It too holds the tip of the abdomen cocked up. It has white legs which are displayed to females in courtship. It is known only from the Ulu Barito, Central Kalimantan, on rocky streams at low altitude.

It is a recent discovery, collected by Chris Jiggins on a Cambridge University undergraduate expedition.

 5) Rhinocypha cognata  is known from the banks of small forest streams in the lowlands of north Borneo. The upper side of the male abdomen is deep blue. Males perch on leaves illuminated by the sun, often well above the water. They are easily overlooked although they sometimes contest perches in head-to-head ascending contests like other chlorocyphids. The female is unknown. There is only the slightest brown mark at the tip of the otherwise hyaline hind wings. The forewing is unmarked. All lack white markings on the legs.

 6) Rhinocypha spinifer  is known from forest streams from 800-1100 m in north-west Borneo. Its habits are like those of the last species and the female is unknown.

 7) Rhinocypha moultoni is known only from streams at 600-1500 m on Mount Kinabalu. Males are very like those of R. spinifer and differ only by a slight variation in the pattern of red above and yellow at the sides of the abdomen. The females  are more frequently encountered and oviposit alone in dead wood along stream beds.



Heliocypha biseriata  is the only species of its genus known from Borneo. It has very close relatives on Java and peninsular Malaysia. The male has distinctive blue and magenta markings on the synthorax but its greatest adornment is to be found in its hind wings, which are quite dark with extensive parallel windows shot with purple and green iridescence. It inhabits rocky streams throughout Borneo, some-times in company with Rhinocypha aurofulgens and Rhinocypha cucullata. Males are boisterous and chaotic in their territorial battles which are usually quite brief. Courtship, displaying their white legs and lovely fluttering hind wings, is also vigorous and brief. Following mating the male follows the female closely, standing guard while she partially submerges to lay her eggs .

Sundacypha is a small genus confined to Sundaland. Sundacypha petiolata  is the best known and is widespread in forest streams in the lowlands of Borneo, Sumatra and peninsular Malaysia. The forewing is hyaline and the hind wing has a broad dark terminal mark, the exact reverse of the condition found in most Libellago. Males contest territory in the same manner as Libellago species and they have evolved a stationary-wing threat display in which the hind wing, rather than the forewing is briefly held still while the insect flies with its forewings. Females are courted with a display of white legs and the red of the upturned abdomen. S. striata differs slightly in the red markings on the abdomen and the yellow stripes on the upper side of the thorax. In striata these are thin and parallel sided whereas in petiolata they are broad and leaf-shaped at the front. S. striata is a recent discovery known only from swampy forest in Brunei. Its behavior is like that of S. petiolata.


Rhinoneura is a genus unique to Borneo. Two species are known. Rhinoneura villosipes  inhabits small streams in mossy forest on Mount Kinabalu at 1100-1700 m. Males are often common on the Silau Silau below Park Headquarters. They are very conspicuous with their golden abdomens and slow flight. They frequently contest territory, typically mossy leaves where they perch a meter or two above the water, with a protracted head-to-head hovering contest. Courtship has not been recorded but they have cream colored legs suggesting some form of courtship dance probably occurs. The females are most often found around the gardens bordering the paths at Park Headquarters. Most are teneral. Unlike the male, in females the abdomen is shorter than the hind wings . The second species, Rhinocypha caerulea has been recorded from Mount Dulit in Sarawak. It is quite similar to villosipes except that the golden coloration on the abdomen is replaced by slightly less extensive light blue, and the thoracic markings are likewise pale blue to greenish. It is known from only a few male specimens from the original type series and probably should be sought in pristine forest streams above 1000 m in northern Sarawak.

INDEX : Damselfly     May 18, 2017 11:32:07 AM