In a photography adventure recently I was able to get a full-frame shot of a gorgeous dragonfly. Later, sitting at the computer, I couldn’t help but notice–and appreciate– the intricate pattern on the wings, seen here. What perfection there is in these tiny details!
Have you ever watched a dragonfly zoom through the air? They are able to move each of their four wings independently so that their flight is absolutely accurate.
They can hover, fly forwards, backwards, sideways, even upside-down.
This level of accuracy makes them one of the most efficient predators out there, allowing them to be successful 95% of the time! Neither sharks nor lions can come even close to being that deadly. (Sharks are accurate about 50% of the time and lions about 25%) Dragonflies feed on insects, catching them in mid-air. Amazingly, scientists studying them discovered that they don’t track the prey in the way we might expect. Instead, they calculate the velocity of the prey and then make predictions as to where it will be so they can put themselves there.
Then when they grab some unsuspecting insect, they might feast on it in mid-air, or may land to devour it from a perch. Either way, they use their spiny legs like a cage, trapping their prey while their hinged jaws extend to chow down. It is easy to see why scientists gave dragonflies the latin name Odonata– or “toothed ones,” as their serrated jaws prove deadly to most everything they come in contact with.
In addition to having wings that they can operate independently, another factor that influences their accuracy is their eyes. You probably have seen dragonflies and noticed their giant compound eyes.
Did you know their eyes have 30,000 individual facets? (a facet or ommatidia, as they are called, are the individual optical units that make up the compound eye of insects)
In comparison, a fly, who also seems to have big eyes, has only 6,000. With this many facets their vision borders on extra-terrestrial! They can see in all directions at the same time and have no “blind spot” like most other insects. This makes them not only amazing predators, but amazing at avoiding getting eaten by birds or other animals who might want to make them dinner.
Who knew such a lovely creature has so many amazing adaptations that make them so deadly? And there’s more! To read more, check out my weekly creature feature about dragonflies, HERE. Or, even better, check out THIS POST with ten surprisingly brutal facts about dragonflies. You might never look at them the same way again.