|Guide to insects, arthropods, and molluscs of northern Dogon country.
Compiled by Jeffrey Heath, Linguistics, University of Michigan
March 2009 version
This informal guide is compiled from the literature, online resources, and identifications of our specimens from northern Dogon country collected or photographed during the Dogon linguistic project. The guide is intended primarily for the use of linguistic fieldworkers, but if it is useful to others working in the area so much the better.
The insect specimen identifications were mostly done by H.-P. Aberlenc and colleagues at CIRAD-Montpellier (France). Aberlenc also took, for our use, numerous photos of specimens from the CIRAD collection and a few of my own specimens. The notes include species (particularly crop pests and disease vectors) that are not necessarily present in northern Dogon country but may occur farther south. File names in green refer to our photos (“....JH.jpg” if taken by me or under my direction, “...HPA.jpg” if taken for us by Aberlenc). Links to other websites are also given (some will become obselete with time.) Like the other guides in this project, we hope to make additions and corrections as the project continues.
Where insect larvae are very distinct from adults (imagos), so that natives do not usually make the connection between the two, the larvae are treated as a separate "larvae" category at the end of the notes. This applies particularly to larvae and caterpillars of Lepidoptera = butterflies, and larvae of Diptera = flies and of Coleoptera = beetles.
Northern Dogon are particularly interested in grasshoppers (most of which are named at the level of species, or groups of closely related species), and least interested in (adult) butterflies (which are usually not differentiated terminologically). They also have a good knowledge of beetles/bugs and of larvae (particularly agricultural and animal pests).
send comments/corrections to: email@example.com
website with links to various entomology resources:
approximate taxonomic hierarchy:
Acarina (mites and ticks)
Trombidiidae (velvet mites)
Solifugae (wind scorpions)
Aperygota (includes bristletails)
Pterygota (most insects)
on the hierarchy, which is subject to revision, cf. Wikipedia and the following websites:
Lophotrochozoa, Mollusca (molluscs)
comment (JH): Molluscs are generally of little interest to Dogon and montane Songhay. Snails are familiar but speakers may struggle to find a native name. Mussel shells are used as scrapers. Dogon who are familiar with rock pools may know (tiny) bladder snails. Molluscs are not normally eaten in Dogon country.
reference: David S. Brown. 1994. Freshwater snails of Africa and their medical importance. 2nd ed. (first ed. 1980). CRC Press.
Mollusca, Bivalvia, Palaeoheterodonta (various spp.)
a. live, in watercourses 60589
b. shells, used as scrapers 60588
Mollusca, Gastropoda (various families)
Mollusca, Gastropoda, Pulmonata, Physidae (bladder snails)
[some spp. may really belong to closely related group Planorbidae, Bulininae]
bladder snail sp. 60591
notes: tiny mollusc with soft shell, coiling to a pointed tip; sinistral (left-turned, i.e. if the tip is up and you turn it so the opening faces you, the opening is on the left); no operculum (hardened circular element that closes the opening of snails and other shells when soft parts are withdrawn); often floats in stagnant pools
specimen 1006.081 (from rock pool at Beni)
taxonomy: African genera of this family are Physa, Physella, Aplexa. Taxonomy is in flux. Aplexa waterloti is a West African sp. Some physid spp. are invasive (introduced by humans).
description and image: Wikipedia (Physidae)
Mollusca, Gastropoda, Sorbeoconcha, Cypraeidae
Cypraea moneta (cowry shell) 60587
Traditionally used in West Africa as currency, now used in jewely and hairstyles
(marine shells not native to the area)
many web images
(mites, ticks, spiders, scorpions, solifuges)
Acari, Acarina (mites and ticks)
Trombidiidae (velvet mites)
comment (JH): the red velvet mite is well known to all Songhay and Dogon farmers
Arthropoda, Chelicerata, Arachnida, Acari, Acariformes, Parasitengona, Trombidioidea, Trombidiidae
Dinothrombium tinctorium (or similar) "giant velvet mite" or "red velvet mite" 60002
records: common throughout Dogon country in cultivated fields
notes: scarlet-red spider-like arthropod that emerges in fields after a rain, called “son of rain” or the like in local languages
Arthropoda, Chelicerata, Arachnida, Acari, Acarina, Parasitiformes, Ixodida
hard ticks: Ixodidae
soft ticks: Argasidae
Joseph Okello-Onen, Shawgi M. Hassan, and Suliman Essuman (ed. Serah Mwanycky). 1999. Taxonomy of African ticks: an identification manual. Nairobi: Int'l Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology.
Lm Lamontellerie. 1966. "Tiques [Acarina Ixodoidea] de Haute Volta." Bull. de l'Inst. Franç. d'Afr. Noire 28(2):597-642.
comment (JH): most Songhay and Dogon languages have one word for 'tick', and where necessary specify 'chicken tick' or the like as a compound beginning with the term for the host animal.
Argasidae (soft ticks)
[spend most time in earth or crevices, feed on hosts only briefly]
[mouthparts generally not visible from above]
Argas spp. infest mainly birds and bats in Africa
Argas persicus "fowl tick" 60637
notes: infest chickens; males to 0.5 cm, females 0.4 to 1.1 cm long, flattened; red; front elongated and tapering
images on web
Ornithodoros spp. infest various domestic and wild mammals (e.g. swine)
vectors of African swine fever//peste porcine africaine (a DNA virus)
Ornithodoros moubata complex (including O. porcinus)
images on web
Ixodidae (hard ticks)
[mouthparts (palps) extend outward, are visible from above]
a) palps (protruding mouthparts) much longer than wide
Amblyomma spp. [shield (top) has color ornamentation, esp. males]
Amblyomma spp., primarily on cattle
Ixodidae, Hyalomminae (palps much longer than wide)
Hyalomma spp. (bony-legged ticks), no ornamentation of shield; numerous spp. mainly feeding on cattle, s.t. sheep and goats
Hyalomma impeltatum (determined J.-L. Camicas, 2004) 60458
Large hard tick; adults feed on livestock and herbivores
specimen 2004-042 (Dogon country)
Hyalomma dromedarii (Saharan, feeds on camels, less often cattle, horses); vector of theileriosis (Theileria camelensis) on camels
b) palps wider than long
Rhipicephalus spp. (variously on dogs, cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys)
Rhipicephalus cf. turanicus (part of R. sanguineus group) 60459
Small hard tick; red; tapers down toward front; esp. on dogs
specimen 2004-011 (Dogon country)