Ceriagrion cerinorubellum: the Orange-Tailed Marsh Dart

Singapore, although a tiny island nation, is blessed with a prodigious biodiversity that has been impressively well documented. Among the many orders of fauna that one might encounter on the island are the Odonata, which comprise the dragonflies (suborder Anisoptera) and the damselflies (suborder Zygoptera), both of which are fascinating insects with semi-aquatic life cycles. The Odonata also play a very important role in the ecosystems they inhabit. This post illustrates the behaviour of some  interesting damselfly species I photographed in Singapore — in particular, the species Ceriagrion cerinorubellum.

In December 2009, while on a  seven-hour hike (of which I shall spare you the details), I passed through Kent Ridge Park, where I found a little pond with numerous species of dragonflies and damselflies buzzing over and around. Many were hovering about, feeding, and often catching their prey in mid-air.

Ictinogomphus decoratus (Selys, 1854), also known as the Common Flangetail, in mid-flight over the pond. (EXIF: 1/1000s; f/4.0; ISO 250; handheld)

I spent over an hour observing their behaviour. Some were mating, forming what is known as the wheel position, in which the male and the female come together and form a sort of valentine.

Pseudagrion microcephalum
A mating Pseudagrion microcephalum, (Common Name: Blue Sprite) pair in the wheel position. (EXIF: 1/200s; f/14.0; ISO 800; handheld)

Among the several different species, a pair of brightly coloured damselflies perched among the blades of grass caught my eye, and I snuck up on them to try and take a few photographs. This pair had just finished copulating: the male had transferred its sperm to the female , and now was remaining in tandem position (pictured below) to fend off other males and protect the female while it found a suitable spot to oviposit (lay its eggs).

A mating Ceriagrion cerinorubellum pair in tandem position just after copulation, with the male ready to fend off other suitors vying for its mate. (EXIF: 1/200s; f/5.0; ISO 500; handheld)

 Male damselflies possess four hook-like appendages at the end of their tails: a pair of cerci, and a pair of paraprocts. They use these claspers to hold on tightly to the females while mating.

The male using its cerci to clasp onto the female (see close-up insert) while in tandem position. (EXIF: 1/200s; f/3.5; ISO 500; handheld)

 The Orange-Tailed Marsh Darts are widely distributed in Asia, and are quite a hardy species. Owing to the fact that they are usually found in disturbed and polluted bodies of water, canals, and drains, they could be used as potential bioindicators to determine water quality and the general health of an ecosystem. They are aggressive feeders, and will often catch and feed on prey much larger than themselves. There has been at least one documented case of cannibalism within this species by YouTube user HB Tang.

Ceriagrion cerinorubellum (Brauer, 1865): different individual, photographed at Venus Drive, Singapore. (EXIF: 1/80s; f/3.5; ISO 200; handheld)

One interesting observation made in Kerala, India, by Palot and Radhakrishnan (2004) was that the male of another species within the same genus (C. marginipes) attempted to mate with a female C. cerinorubellum. While the female remained cooperative, copulation was not possible and after 40 minutes of remaining in the wheel position, the pair parted ways.

On a final note, I must say that these were among my first photographs with an actual DSLR. I had purchased my first DSLR (a Canon EOS 7D) and macro lens (a Canon EF 100mm F2.8 Macro USM) just two days earlier, and was very keen to take them out to take a few field shots. Keeping in mind that I was a fledgling photographer at the time, I am very pleased that I was able to capture some fairly decent behavioural shots!

Here is a map of where I took these photographs:

The red spot at the bottom of the pond marks the general area where I took these photographs.

If you wish to learn more about the Odonata of Singapore, Anthony Quek has a very well-written blog documenting most — if not all — the species of the Odonata on the island. He also has a post about this species, Ceriagrion Cerinorubellum, here.


  1. Brauer, F. Dritter Bericht über die auf der Weltfahrt der kais. Fregatte Novara gesammelten Libellulinen., Verhandlungen K K zoologisch-botanischen Gesellschaft Wien 15. 1865. 501-512.
  2. Cooper, Ann. “Body Works.” Dragonflies Q&A Guide: Fascinating Facts about Their Life in the Wild. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2014. 29. Print.
  3. Palot, Muhamed Jafer and Radhakrishnan, C. “A Note on Mock-Mating Behaviour in Damselflies (Odonata: Insecta).” Zoos’ Print Journal April 2004: 1431. Print.

Like Bald Guy With a Camera’s photography? See more of his work here.


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