Purple darter (Diplacodes lefebvrii)

Male purple darter on leaf
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Purple darter fact file

Purple darter description

GenusDiplacodes (1)

Giving off an iridescent dark-purplish sheen as it flies across its freshwater habitat, it is not hard to see how the purple darter (Diplacodes lefebvrii) got its name. This small dragonfly is also called the black percher, due to the male being almost entirely black, and to the species’ habit of perching often. In contrast to the male, the female is more of a vibrant yellowish-green, with the only black present as small stripes across the thorax (3).

The wings of the purple darter are very clear, although they turn slightly amber towards the base of the hindwing. This amber patch is bigger and darker in females. Both the male and female purple darter have a greyish-brown cell, known as the pterostigma, near the tip of the wing (3).

Also known as
black percher.
Diplacodes de Lefebvre.
Prothorax length: 2.5 - 4 mm (2)
Hindwing length: 20 - 28 mm (2)

Purple darter biology

As in other dragonflies, the larva of the purple darter is aquatic and is probably a ferocious hunter (4), opportunistically taking a variety of prey from aquatic invertebrates to small fish. Adults dragonflies tend to be generalised feeders, congregating where flying insect prey are abundant (5).

Adult purple darters can be seen year-round, although are less common in winter (3). Like all dragonflies, the purple darter copulates when flying in tandem. The male will grab a receptive female at the back of the abdomen, pulling the pair into a wheel shape and allowing copulation to occur (4). Female darters typically lay eggs nearby immediately after copulation by repeatedly dipping the abdomen into the water, or by laying the eggs onto the water surface or floating vegetation (5).


Purple darter range

The purple darter has a widespread distribution, primarily occurring in Africa, outside of forested areas. This species can also be found on several islands in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as across the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula, and through Asia as far as the Indian subcontinent (1).


Purple darter habitat

The purple darter can be found in a diverse range of well-vegetated freshwater habitats, such as swamps and marshes (1). It can also inhabit small stretches of river, provided there is an abundance of tall grasses either side (4).


Purple darter status

The purple darter is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Purple darter threats

The main threat to the purple darter is the drainage of swamp land and marshes for agricultural use or for housing in highly populated areas (1).


Purple darter conservation

There are currently no specific conservation efforts directed at the purple darter due to its stable population and widespread range (1).

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View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

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In arthropods (crustaceans, insects and arachnids) the abdomen is the hind region of the body, which is usually segmented to a degree (but not visibly in most spiders). In crustacea (such as crabs), some of the limbs attach to the abdomen; in insects the limbs are attached to the thorax (the part of the body nearest to the head) and not the abdomen.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Part of the body located between the head and the abdomen in animals. In insects, the three segments between the head and the abdomen, each of which has a pair of legs. In vertebrates the thorax contains the heart and the lungs.


  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2010)
  2. Dijkstra, K-D.B. (2006) African Diplacodes: the status of the small species and the genus Philonomon (Odonata: Libellulidae). International Journal of Odonatology, 9(2): 119-132.
  3. Samways, M.J. (2008) Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa. Pensoft Publishers, Bulgaria.
  4. Brooks, S. (2003) Dragonflies. Life Series, The Natural History Museum, London.
  5. O' Toole, C. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Iinsects and their Allies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Image credit

Male purple darter on leaf  
Male purple darter on leaf

© Jan Van Der Voort

Jan Van Der Voort
Antoon Wolfsstraat 24/1


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