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Insects and other arthropods

Dragonflies

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Description

Dragonflies are divided into two groups: the suborder Anisoptera, which rest with their wings outspread, and the suborder Zygoptera, also called damselflies, which rest with their wings folded together over their backs.

Adults are often strikingly coloured with wings that feature distinctive banded patterns. The head has two large compound eyes and very short antennae. All dragonflies possess two pairs of membranous wings that are larger in suborder Anisoptera than in suborder Zygoptera. The abdomen is long and slender.

The aquatic odonate larva is equipped with unusual mouthparts that form a grasping hinged labium that can be rapidly extended to capture prey; at rest, it is folded away under the head.

Life cycle

Before mating, the male loops the tip of his abdomen forward to transfer sperm to its base. He then finds his partner and grasps her behind the head with the claspers at the tip of his abdomen. The female loops her abdomen under as well, placing its tip against the base of the male’s abdomen. Together they form a circular shape called the “wheel position.”

Dragonflies often fly in tandem as they mate and may remain in this position while the female deposits her eggs. Depending on the species, eggs are laid in water or inserted into the stems of water plants. The larval stage is spent underwater. When fully grown, the larva, or nymph, climbs out of the water onto a plant stem or other support and emerges as an adult dragonfly. It will have to wait a while before its body and wings have dried and it becomes strong enough to fly.

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