Friday, April 5, 2013

Incredible Dragonflies

Swamp Darner- Patrick Coin
The New York Times just published a comprehensive overview of dragonflies.  The New York Times??  It turns out that odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) are the ultimate aerial predator with performance standards outclassing anything that the military and Silicon Valley engineers can produce.  Nature's Drone, Pretty and Deadly gives a vivid description of these wonders of nature.  Just a few of the many details includes:
  • Dragonflies have a 95% success rate in capturing their prey, far beyond the 25-50% frequency that lions and sharks achieve.
  • Unlike lions which feast and then take a day long nap, dragonflies eat their prey on the wing, ready to catch the next morsel.  One researcher watched a specimen consume 30 flies in a row, stopping only when the supply ran out!
  • When a covey of quail flush, most of us are challenged to focus on one to shoot at.  Not so with the dragonfly which can keep track of several prey at the same time.  
  • Some species such as the green darner form large swarms and migrate from the north to Mexico somewhat like monarchs.
  • Like the old saying about Ginger Rogers being able to do everything that Fred Astaire could do but backwards and in high heels, the dragonfly can dive at 30 mph, hover and fly backwards and even upside down!
Given all these aerial talents, it is only natural that much of the research is being done by the military.  Nature's Drone, Pretty and Deadly has a lot more detail and is worth a read.

Thanks to Patrick Coin for the use of his great pictures and to Kevin Firth for sending the story.

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