Dragonflies and damselflies are charismatic insects that have captured the imagination of naturalists and artists across cultures. Juveniles are voracious underwater predators, feeding mostly on other aquatic insects. Nymphs of larger dragonflies also prey on tadpoles and small fishes. The winged adults are fierce aerial hunters with large eyes. They are often seen chasing after small flying insects near bodies of water.
Odonate females lay their eggs in water or aquatic vegetation, and matings usually occur near the breeding habitat. Many people have observed the peculiar mating postures of dragonflies and damselflies. The male initiates the tandem posture by grasping the female's head or thorax with a pair of appendages at the tip of his abdomen. The female then bends her abdomen forward to collect sperm from the male penis which is located on the underside of his second abdominal segment. This results in the copulation wheel posture where the bodies of the mating pair are linked in a circular shape. Immediately after copulation, the female will usually start laying eggs, and odonate males often guard their mates by remaining in tandem posture during the oviposition bout.
The external genitalia of odonate males are unique among insects. As in most insects, the seminal fluid leaves the male body through a genital opening near the tip of the abdomen, on the 9th abdominal segment. But in dragonflies and damselflies, the copulatory organ is located near the front of the abdomen, far away from the site of sperm production. So before each mating, the male has to transfer his sperm to the penis near the front of his abdomen.
- Borror, D. J., C. A. Triplehorn, and N. F. Johnson. 1989. An Introduction to the Study of Insects. Sixth Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia.
- Tennessen, K. J. 2009. Ephemeroptera (Mayflies). Pages 721-729 in Encyclopedia of Insects, V. H. Resh and R. T. Cardé, eds. Academic Press, New York.
- Grimaldi, D. and M. S. Engel. 2005. Evolution of Insects. Cambridge University Press, New York.
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