Overview

Distribution

Geographic Range

Dragonflies are found all over the world. In Michigan there are 114 species

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Native )

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Immature dragonflies have six spindly legs, and a body that is only a few times longer than it is wide. They have two fairly big eyes. Some of their mouthparts are modified to shoot forward and grab prey. They breathe water through gills in their abdomen, and can squirt this water out fast to give themselves a quick jet-propelled movement. Adult dragonflies are easy to recognize. They have long thin bodies, very large eyes, and they hold their 2 pairs of wings out flat on either side. Their legs sometimes have many long stiff hairs. Immature dragonflies are usually brown or greenish, and sometimes have algae growing on them. Adult dragonflies can be very colorful, some are red, blue, yellow, or green.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

Immature dragonflies live in freshwater. They are most abundant an diverse in slow-moving freshwater that has no fish (small streams and ponds) but can be found in many shallow freshwater habitats. Adult dragonflies often stay near water, but sometimes travel away from water while hunting or on migration. They are fast fliers, so they tend to hunt in open areas, not in thick trees or other vegetation.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial ; freshwater

Terrestrial Biomes: taiga ; desert or dune ; chaparral ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest ; mountains

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp ; bog

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Dragonflies in their aquatic stage eat many kinds of small animals: aquatic Insecta, Anura, small Actinopterygii, and other invertebrates. Adult dragonflies eat flying Insecta, especially Culicidae and other Diptera, but also Aphididae, smaller dragonflies, damselflies, and just about any other insects they can grab.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Dragonflies are sometimes the top predators in ponds with no fish. Adult dragonflies help control populations of mosquitos and other flies.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Predation

Immature dragonflies avoid predators by hiding, and by jetting away if they have to. Adult dragonflies avoid predators with their quick and agile flight, and hide in vegetation when it is too cold to fly.

Known Predators:

  • Anura
  • Actinopterygii
  • large Araneae 
  • Aves

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Animal / predator
bladder of Drosera rotundifolia is predator of Anisoptera
Other: unusual host/prey

Animal / parasite / ectoparasite / blood sucker
adult of Forcipomyia paludis sucks the blood of live wing base (under side) of adult of Anisoptera

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Known predators

Anisoptera (Anisopetra odonata) is prey of:
Asilidae
Perca flavescens
Micropterus salmoides
Ambloplites rupestris

Based on studies in:
USA: California, Cabrillo Point (Grassland)
USA: Wisconsin, Little Rock Lake (Lake or pond)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • L. D. Harris and L. Paur, A quantitative food web analysis of a shortgrass community, Technical Report No. 154, Grassland Biome. U.S. International Biological Program (1972), from p. 17.
  • Martinez ND (1991) Artifacts or attributes? Effects of resolution on the Little Rock Lake food web. Ecol Monogr 61:367–392
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© SPIRE project

Source: SPIRE

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Known prey organisms

  • J. M. Teal, Energy flow in the salt marsh ecosystem of Georgia, Ecology 43(4):614-624, from p. 616 (1962).
  • Martinez ND (1991) Artifacts or attributes? Effects of resolution on the Little Rock Lake food web. Ecol Monogr 61:367–392
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© SPIRE project

Source: SPIRE

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Adult dragonflies communicate visually much more than most other insects. Males fight aerial duels for territory, displaying their size and speed to each other. Mating pairs probably communicate by touch, possibly chemically too

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Cycle

Development

Dragonflies hatch from eggs in freshwater, and spent at least a few months (sometimes several years) as aquatic predators. As they grow they molt (shed their whole skin at once) many times. Once they are big enough, they crawl out of the water and the adult stage emerges from the skin of the nymph. Once they have transformed into the winged adult stage, the stop growing.

Most dragonfly species spend the winter as nymphs in the water, but some migrate south, and spend the winter as adults. In few species that lay their eggs in the late summer or fall, the eggs don't hatch until spring. Dragonflies emerge from the water in the warm months of spring or summer.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Dragonflies live for months at least, and some live for several years as aquatic larvae before emerging and living for a few months as adults.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Reproduction

After mating, female dragonflies lay dozens or hundreds of eggs. Different species place them in different places in or near freshwater. Some put them in the water, some in plants over the water, some in mud or algae at the edge of the water.

Breeding season: spring or summer

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; seasonal breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

Parental Investment: no parental involvement

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

Most dragonfly species are abundant and common, but a few use special habitats as immatures, and they are at risk because their habitats are in danger.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Dragonflies help control populations of biting flies like mosquitos.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!