In April of 2023, I conducted a damselfly survey of the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Reserve: a protected area of the Peruvian Amazon known for its astonishing biodiversity. With the help of a dedicated guide, I spent my daylight hours canoeing up rivers and in lakes, paddling through flooded rainforest, or hiking through dense jungle. In each of these habitats, I caught specimens with my trusty net, took photos for identification, and swiftly released them. Over 12 days, I recorded 36 species from 8 major habitats. I was lucky to have the help of ecologist and fellow damselfly enthusiast Tim Faasen in analysing my findings. Below I have summarised my most exciting discoveries.
A species new to science - this gorgeous damselfly, discovered deep within flooded black water forest, is an undescribed species. Perhaps I will return to the Amazon someday to collect a specimen.
A species new to the reserve - this blue-eyed damselfly, belonging to Lestes falcifer, has never been recorded in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Regional Conservation Area before now. I found it lurking by a pond in Terra Firme, and it evaded my net for so long that I almost gave up trying to catch it! Luckily I persevered, and it can now be added to the list of species known to the area.
This damselfly, belonging to Lestes helix, was previously only known to fly in the dry season. Finding this specimen in April confirms that they are also on the wing during the wet months of the year.
This damselfly is likely Metaleptobasis silvicola, a second species new to the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Regional Conservation Area. This damselfly looks particularly disgruntled at having been apprehended - its distaste for being captured is likely why it has stayed unknown to the area for so long!
This damselfly is one of four species of giant helicopter damselfly that I found during the trip. This is Mecistogaster lucretia, but I also found Mecistogaster linearis, Microstigma rotundatum, and Anomisma abnorme. Only Mecistogaster ornata, a fifth species known to this part of the Amazon, evaded me. I was hiking through Terra Firme when I found this specimen. We came to a cluster of trees covered in bromeliads, which is prime habitat for helicopter damselflies. Right in front of me, a ray of light shone through a pearly spider web, and on the other side was M. Lucretia, hovering with nonchalant yet captivating wingbeats, attempting to pluck the spider out its web. This enthralling sight was but a glimpse, as the spectral hunter escaped my intruding presence to a nearby tree. Having caught it in my net, I tried to photograph the specimen, which was held in one hand while my other held my camera. However, due to its impressive size, I couldn't extend my arm far enough to fit it in the frame. Luckily my guide was happy to hold it. Note the beautifully coloured wing tips.
This specimen, although it appears unassuming, is actually an andromorphic female belonging to the species Inpabasis nigridorsum. You would be forgiven for not realising at first glance! Andromorphia, when a female displays male characteristics, is little recorded if at all within the genus Inpabasis.