Dragonflies & Damselfly of the mangrove swamps

In this post, I would like to showcase a few species of dragonfly and damselfly which could only be found in the mangrove swamps around Singapore’s coastal regions. Areas which I had visited include SungeiĀ  Buloh Wetalnd Reserves, Pulau Ubin, and the mangrove swamps around the North Western part of Singapore.

Some species are uncommon such as mangrove dwarf (Raphismia bispina) whilst others are rare, such as the elusive mangrove marshal (Pornothemis starrei) and Arthur’s Midget (Mortonagrion arthuri).

  1. Raphismia bispina (Mangrove Dwarf)

They are uncommon species and one of the few dragonfly species that lives and breeds in the salt water in mangrove swamps. I have seen and recorded this species at Pulau Ubin, SBWR, and Sungei Cina.

Young female Raphisma bispina. It has clear wings. The eyes are brown on top and yellow below. It has mottled yellow marking at the side of it’s thorax and yellow streaks along the abdomen.
An older female where the yellow markings at the side of the thorax and abdomen are obscured.
A sub-adult male. The thorax is slated blue with some yellow streaks at the side of the abdomen.

2. Pornothemis starrei (Mangrove Marshal)

This species is rare in Singapore. I have come across it once at SBWR and Pulau Ubin and a few occasions at sungei cina.

A female pornothemis starrei.
A male pornothemis starrei. It is slightly metallic black with white pruinescence on the dorsum of the thorax.

3. Mortonagrion arthuri ( Arthur’s Midget)

Mortonagrion arthuri is also a mangrove species and could be found at Pulau Ubin and Sungei Cina.

A female Mortonagrion arthuri resting at the tip of the root of mangrove tree. It has brown thorax with blue stripes. Similar to males, it also has distinct blue markings on segment 8 of the abdomen.
An older female. The blue markings on the abdomen is already obscured and could not be seen.
A male mortonagrion arthuri. Male has two colour forms. This is a bue form which it has blue stripes on the thorax and blue postocular spots. Notice the distinct blue markings at segment 8 of the abdomen.

Although not exclusively associate with mangrove habitats, the following two species of dragonfly could also be found there.

A male Orthetrum sabina ( Variegated green skimmer).
A female Agrionoptera insignis (grenadier).

It is important to preserve our limited mangrove habitats so the rare species of plants and animals could continue to thrive there.



Vestalis amoena Hagen in Selys, 1853

Family: Calopterygidae
Scientific Name: Vestalis amoena
Common Name: Charming Flashwing

Charming Flashwing is an uncommon and restricted species of damselfly that can be found at dense forests of our the nature reserves. Unlike V. amethystina, V. amoena is more likely associate with larger forest streams in the nature reserve.

V. amethystina, and V. amoena looks very much alike. The males of these species can be separated by the shape of the tip of the superior appendages. For V. amoena, the appendages appear to be less curved towards each other.

The attached photos are taken in thick and remote forests at the Upper Pierce Reservoir.

Vestalis amoena – male.
It is wary of my presence and is very alert.
Note the shape of it’s superior appendages. It is less curve towards each other and shaped like a horseshoe.

This species has a pair of very attractive sparkling blue purple iridescense wings when viewed at a certain angels from the reflection of the sunlight.

Unlike V. amethystina, V. amoena is more scarcer and it is thought to be endangered in our nature reserves.

Great websites of Singapore Odonata

Singapore, although is small, about 710sq. km, harbor at least 124 species of odonata in the South East Asia region. Many Singaporeans have become interested in dragonflies and damselflies over the past few years since the publication of important books such as Dr. A.G.Orr’s pocket guide book of Dragonflies of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore; a guide to the dragonflies of Borneo and our local dragonflies enthusiast Mr. Tang H.B.’s book on Dragonflies of Singapore.

I have been greatly inspired by Mr. Tang’s book and started to venture into the nature reserves in 2011 and collected numerous photos of Singapore Odonata. Mr. Tang has also given me valuable advises on some of the hard to identify species.

Readers who are interested in local Odonata species can click on the below links for more information.

1) Mr. Tang’s website:

Dragonflies and damselflies of Singapore

Dragonflies Singapore

2) A very informative and interesting website of local insects, birds, reptiles and of course dragonflies:

Creatures Big & Small