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Sparklewing: Damselfly with a Daring Name

ESF Top 10 New Species of 2016

From the Author...

The robust sparklewing Umma gumma was one of 60 new dragonfly and damselfly species named from Africa in one paper last year, adding one to every 12 known there, emphasizing that even for such conspicuous animals not enough field research is being done before their habitats are lost.

These insects’ beauty and sensitivity can raise awareness for freshwater biodiversity, the densest and most threatened on Earth. Every lake or river is like an island in a sea of land. Each species’ community therefore develops in isolation, leading to unique biodiversity. Thus, while freshwaters cover only 1 percent of Earth, they harbor 10 percent of known animal species, of which up to 80 percent are insects. If each water body is like an island, a single dam or mine spill can erase an irreplaceable ecosystem. Therefore, 32 percent of freshwater species may risk extinction versus 24 percent of those on land. But however rare, a species cannot be added to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature )Red List of Threatened Species without a name.

Taxonomy is thus essential for conservation and a biologist’s greatest importance today is to provide the names and knowledge needed, like a person’s name, to introduce species to society and into our conscience. As one budding enthusiast exclaimed: You don’t notice them until you know they can have a name! Therefore, names are best memorable too. In naming Umma gumma, which is actually quite widespread on rainforest streams in Central Africa, the author honored his travel companion’s request on his first big trip, 16 years ago: “If you ever discover a new species of the genus Umma, call it Ummagumma like the Pink Floyd album!” Released in 1969, Ummagumma is apparently  Cambridge slang for making love. And that’s exactly what the pair in one of our photos is doing, in the wheel position unique to this insect order!

Read more:

—K.D. Dijkstra

About the Sparklewing

Name: Umma Gumma

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Location: Gabon

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Odonata

Family: Calopterygidae

Size: 55 mm (about 2 inches)

Etymology: Name refers to the 1969 Pink Floyd album Ummagumma, a word said to be Cambridge slang for making love.

Type locality: Africa, Gabon, Haut-Ogooue Province, Moyal

Holotype: Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands

More information: Klaas-Douwe B. Dijkstra, Jens Kipping, and Nicolas Mézière. 2015. Sixty new dragonfly and damselfly species from Africa (Odonata). Odonatologica 44: 447-678

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