Desert Darter – Sympetrum sinaiticum
This relatively small dragonfly is comparatively scarce in Spain, but in recent years it has started to become more frequently encountered. This may be as a result of a greater awareness of the species or perhaps as a result of climate change. It is a species of arid regions and individuals are frequently found a long way from water. In this respect the species is unusual amongst the Iberian dragonfly fauna in that adults seem to delay reproductive behaviour for perhaps two months or so before returning to water to breed.
The species can be difficult to pick out in a large group of mixed darters but individually they are distinctive. The male’s red abdomen has an absence of dark central markings on the upper surface, a feature it shares with the Southern Darter – Sympetrum meridionale, however when viewed from the side both the male & female, (whose abdomen is a sandy yellow colour), have black markings high on the sides of segments 2 & 3 of the abdomen which are absent from the Southern Darter.
The Desert Darter may have extensive red veins in the wings, and blue grey undersides to the eyes leading to confusion with the Red-veined Darter – Sympetrum fonscolombei however careful examination of the abdomen as outlined above will help separate the two species in the field.
Scientific name: Sympetrum sinaiticum Dumont, 1977
English common name: Desert Darter
Total length: 34 to 37mm
Hind Wing length: 24 to 29mm
Flight period in Iberia: early June to early November
Habitat: Rivers, ponds & man made water bodies.
Distribution: North Africa, the Middle East, southern & eastern Spain.
Similar species: Superficially similar to any other red darter, but more specifically the Red-veined Darter – Sympetrum fonscolombei, Moustached Darter – Sympetrum vulgatum and the Southern Darter – Sympetrum meridionale.
Above Male Desert Darter – Sympetrum sinaiticum showing an absence of dark central markings on the abdomen. Photographs taken at a water tank near the Dolmen at the Penon del Gastor, El Gastor, Sierra Grazalema, Andalucia
Above The same male Desert Darter – Sympetrum sinaiticum viewed from the side showing the black bars high on segments 2 & 3 of the abdomen, (near the thorax), and the blue grey underside of the eyes
This article first appeared on the Wildside Holidays website at: http://www.wildsideholidays.com/natural/insects-and-creepy-crawlies/97-dragonflies/303-desert-darter-sympetrum-sinaiticum.html