Dragonflies and Damselflies


Russell Stebbings, Senior Museum Technician, writes:

The Museum’s holdings of Dragonflies and Damselflies (Odonata) are of international importance. Whilst we currently hold a small British collection, mostly dating from the 19th and early 20th Century, our greatest strength is amongst the non-European or ‘Exotic’ groups.

We have material collected from a number of important overseas island habitats, such as Hawaii, New Britain and the islands of the Indian Ocean, particularly the Seychelles. We have collections from Borneo and the Skeat Expedition to Peninsular Malaysia. Additionally, we have an outstanding named collection, that of Professor Allen Davies (1923-2003) which occupies some 11 cabinets. He collected and exchanged insects in order to assemble the finest genus-level collection then (2003) in private ownership. His collections represent localities across the Americas, Africa, Australasia, and Asia including China, Taiwan, Indochina and Burma. He was responsible for discovering and naming several species himself and remained an active collector and researcher until the final year of his life.

One particularly interesting feature of the Davies collection is the larval exuviae. These are the delicate ‘skins’ of the freshwater dwelling larvae, shed as they emerge as winged adults. Some of these ‘skins’ are very large, and the powerful jaws, used in seizing prey as large as tadpoles, frogs and fish, can clearly be seen.

Current research in the Department of Zoology is monitoring the species and distribution of Dragonflies in the streams of Sabah (Borneo) in order to assess river ‘health’ whilst riparian habitats (between land and rivers or streams) are undergoing severe change.


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