Not as dainty as we look
Butterfly Cycle? Lame. Dragonfly Cycle? Now We’re Talking.
Unfortunately, I spend most of my life in nymph stage after hatching. I’ll be the first to admit that this was an unattractive stage in my life. My eyes are creepily oversized, and I wasn’t a fan of the ugly brown color. As a larva, I live in the water of ponds while growing for several years. My gills are internal, and I must expand and contract my abdomen to move water over them. Our gills have evolved to this location so that we can push the water out at the butt, which boasts us to catch prey (Tait, 2006). The gills allow respiration to occur because oxygen diffuses through the water.
I have to wait until spring brings warm temperatures to come out and shed my nymph skin. The layer of skin I lose is called my eluvia, and I don’t miss it since I then metamorphosis into my adult years. I appreciate my thin and colorful body as an adult. In this phase, I respire as oxygen travels through tubes of my trachea system. With my beautiful wings, the two months I spend as an adult dragonfly is too short considering it’s the best part of my life.
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A Growing Dragonfly Needs Protein
I may look delicate, but I’ll come right out and admit the truth. I'm a carnivore, and I love protein. Maybe you think it’s terrible I love eating unsuspecting prey, but they taste so good to me. As a nymph, tadpole, small fish, and water insects better beware; I’m coming for them. I can eat a lot of food, and I don’t ever regret it. Good thing for my Poseidon-like swimming abilities that allow me to catch up to almost anything I decide is dinner. If any prey does try to out swim me, I can shoot water from my butt for an extra boast. Then I use the hooks on my lower lip to capture prey.
Once I take my adult form, I don’t lose my skilled hunting abilities. Now I can use flight while making my legs into a basket and pick up prey. Dragonflies are categorized under Odonata because in greek this means "one with teeth." We evolved to have serrated teeth on our mandibles to help us chew. Humans should thank me, because my diet is mainly made up of those pesky mosquitoes that bother them so much. However I’m not picky, so bees, flies, and other insects also suffice. Now is when my Zeus-like flying abilities help considering I can execute quick turns, accelerate in a second, and go backwards if necessary (Wang, 2008). I can fly like this because of the way my wing structure has evolved: two pairs of wings. Don’t underestimate a dragonfly.
I May Be Close, But I’m Not Invincible
Scientists Love Us
Scientists seem to be fascinated by dragonflies, not they I blame them; we’re cool. Dr. Wiederman didn’t understand how we could target one prey amongst many. He inserted an electrode in my sister species, the Emerald dragonfly, and gave the dragonfly multiple targets while observing through an LSD screen (Wiederman, 2013). They discovered our ability to focus is based on primate-like stimuli, which gives us the ability to pay complete attention to only one prey at a time. This research displays our nervous systems are pretty complex and amazing.
The Birds and the Bees for Dragonflies
Male dragonflies are seriously overprotective about mating territory. Weak dragonflies won’t get the chance to reproduce, only dominate. Females aren’t as competitive with each other as males. Once the male initiates mating, he will attach to the female using his legs-it's not necessary for them to land, they can mate while flying. Before starting fertilization, the male uses his hamulus to remove any sperm the female might be carrying from past mates to ensure his genes are the ones passed on. After this, the male will fertilize the female, which can take from fifteen minutes to over an hour (Mead, 2013).
We Just Can't Stay Still
Mead, K. (n.d.). Biology and Ecology: Dragonfly Biology 101. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.mndragonfly.org/biology.html
Wiederman, & O'Carroll. (n.d.). Selective Attention in an Insect Visual Neuron. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23260469
Breslin, S. (n.d.). Dragonflies: Nature's Most Vicious Predators. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from https://weather.com/news/news/dragonflies-vicious-predators-20130405
Tait, K. (n.d.). Evolution of Dragonflies. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~tait/evolutionofdragonflies.pdf
Wang, J. (n.d.). Wing Structure Allows Rapid Acceleration: Dragonfly. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from http://www.asknature.org/strategy/51b1ad882ccc3fce497b5ac6d493ef41