Dragonflies belong to the “insect” family of creatures and as such, possess segmented bodies divided into a head, thorax and abdomen. Each of the divided sections houses specialized organs, the head the compound eyes and antenna, the thorax the three pairs of jointed legs and transparent wings, the abdomen the dragonflies’ reproductive and execratory organs. Dragonflies exist within the order Odonata, a Greek word meaning “uneven wing”. This nickname was given to the dragonfly because their hind wings are broader than their fore wings. This adaptation allows their two sets of wings to work independently, allowing dragonflies to maneuver effortlessly through the air in pursuit of prey. Voracious eaters, a dragonfly can eat food equal to its own weight in about 30 minutes. Dragonflies regularly consume a vast array of insects including, house flies, butterflies, moths and even bees. One scientific study even showed that a single dragonfly can consume well over 100 hundred mosquitoes a day!
Fossil evidence indicates that dragonflies inhabited the earth over 325 million years ago. These prehistoric relatives were monstrous compared to modern day dragonflies with some having wingspans over 30 inches.
Dragonflies undergo a three stage life cycle (egg, nymph, adult) which is classified as incomplete metamorphosis. Most other insects undergo a four stage life cycle (egg, larva, pupa, adult). During its life cycle, a dragonfly actually spends very little of its life as an adult dragonfly. Most of its life is instead lived out in the nymph stage underwater. Only after living this underwater existence for a period of several years, does the nymph complete its final molt and emerge from the shallows as a winged adult.
Upon emerging, adults typically survive for just a few weeks, just long enough to find a mate and reproduce. During mating, the male grasps the female at the back of the head and the female curls her abdomen under her body to pick up sperm from the front of the males abdomen. This is typically called the "heart" or "wheel" posture. After mating, the female dragonfly will find a calm body water where she will deposit her eggs on a plant in the water. The following spring, the eggs hatch and the life cycle of the dragonfly begins again.
Wildlife Quiz Questions:
- To which family of creatures do dragonflies belong?
- What three parts is a dragonfly’s body divided into?
- What does the Greek word Odonata mean?
- How many mosquitoes can a dragonfly eat in a single day?
- How long ago does fossil evidence indicate dragonflies existed on earth?
- How wide was the wingspan of the prehistoric dragonflies?
- What are the three stages of the dragonfly cycle of incomplete metamorphosis?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:
- Dragonflies belong to the “insect” family of creatures.
- Dragonflies bodies are divided into a head, thorax and abdomen.
- The Greek word Odonata means “uneven wing”.
- A dragonfly can consume well over 100 hundred mosquitoes in a single day!
- Fossil evidence indicates that dragonflies inhabited the earth over 325 million years ago.
- The wingspan of the prehistoric dragonflies was over 30 inches.
- Dragonflies undergo a three stage life cycle (egg, nymph, adult) which is classified as incomplete metamorphosis.