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141

dragonflies

OLogy Series
animal
card
141

dragonflies

OLogy Series
animal

Based on fossils of ancient dragonflies, we know these winged insects have been soaring around for at least 300 million years. These colorful insects have sharp mandibles that they use to chew their prey. But don't worry: they only use their jaws to chomp on pesky insects like mosquitoes -- not people! They spend most of their time flying through the air in search of food and mates.

My Life as a Dragonfly
As a dragonfly, I began life as an egg among pond weeds. In two weeks, I hatched into a nymph, with a spider-like body. I remained a nymph for about two years. All this time, I was underwater eating tasty mosquito larvae, water lice, and small fish. As a nymph, I molted about twelve times, each time shedding my outer skin so that I had room to grow. After two years, I climbed out of the water. When I reached the fresh air, my outer layer split again and I wiggled out, opening my wings for the first time. Hooray! In a few hours, I began flying and catching insects. Over the next few weeks, I searched for a mate. What a life!

Young dragonflies turn into adults in a process called:

shedding

growing up

metamorphosis

Are you right?

Correct!

Lots of creatures go through a metamorphosis as they grow. Tadpoles turn into frogs, caterpillars into butterflies, and nymphs into adult dragonflies.

A dragonfly nymph is born with gills when it hatches from its egg.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Gills come in pretty handy when you live underwater! Female dragonflies lay their eggs just above or just below the water surface.

A dragonfly fossil from 250 million years ago has a wingspan of 28 inches -- that's more than 2 feet wide!

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Dragonflies today are much smaller than the ones that flew through the skies during the Permian age. Most dragonflies have wingspans that are about 5 inches.

dragonflies Order: Odonata
Size: two to four inches long
Range: marshes, wetlands, parks, and gardens throughout the world
Diet: other insects
Characteristics: have large compound eyes; can be violet, green or red; are very strong fliers
Significance: helps keep insect populations down by eating creatures like mosquitoes, which can spread disease

Image credits: courtesy of Gerald and Buff Corsi, California Academy of Sciences.