Modern Day Dragon : The Dragonfly

Do you remember the good old days? You, as a kid, playing with dragonflies in your backyard? Dragonflies belong to the order Odonata and sometimes mixed up with its close relative, damselflies. These two, however, can be easily distinguished as a two different species.Dragonflies usually rest with their wings held straight out to the side and generally have a stout body, while damselflies often rest with their wings pointed upward. Here, damselflies named as capung jarum- maybe due to their fragile and more delicate figures.As a member of Odonata they both shared the same characteristic that distinguished this order with others, they cannot fold their wings over the body, while most insects can.As a kid, I tought dragonflies eats grass or something like nectar or pollen. Turns out, they’re carnivorous, fierceful predator, and somehow cannibal. They hunt while flying and catch their prey up in the air. Awesome isn’t it? They’re able to see reflections of light on water, their large compound eyes made up of numerous ommatidia, and those in the upper part are usually larger and more numerous, this is why dragonflies usually approach their prey from behind or below. Dagonflies have powerful flight muscle and wings that move independently, they’re beautifully adapted for flight. They are able to hover, fly forwards, backwards, sideways and rapidly change the direction and speed, making them a fierceful hunter in the air. Hawker dragonflies can fly at 36 km/hour while damselflies can fly at 10 km/hour. 

However, if a friend told you they used to play with dragonflies or damselflies as a kid, the probability of they having live near a clear freshwater environment is 98%, maybe a river, lake, stream, canal or even a simple pond. Although the adults can fly, dragonflies and damselflies considered as aquatic insects, since they spent most of their life time in aquatic environment.  Dragonfly larvae is aquatic. They eat any animal such us tadpoles, aquatic insects and fish fry, including its own species. It has conspicious grasping labium to ambushed its prey, captured by its powerful muscles in the labium and chewed by strong mandibles. The larval stage of dragonflies and damselflies can be distinguished by the placement of the gills. Dragonflies larvae suck water into their abdomen and through their internal gills while damselflies have gills at the end of the body as three appendages. Metamorphosis happens without pupal stage until its adult form emerge, sometimes takes place on considerable distance out of the water. This newly emerged adult can be recognized by glassy sheen of the wings until it changes color. The adult form don’t last long, they only last for several weeks or months. 

Due to their more powerful characters, the adults dragonfly can fly a larger distance away from water, compared to damselflies. This is why, sometimes, we can found dragonflies in a meadow or another terrestrial environment far from water environment. 

As dragonflies larvae depends on clear water environment, it’s often used as an indicator of ecosystem quality.  they can be used to make rapid assessments of water quality and indicate a healthy ecosystem.  this is because many Odonata larvae rely on precise water temperatures, good oxygen levels and unpolluted water to survive, this sensitivity means that dragonflies and damselflies larvae can be use as an important bioindicators of water quality.

As the good water decrease and good rivers deceased, where will they go?

Will they survive another decade?

This is a question for us all, will they survive? will we survive?


For more information about this wonderful creature, please visit the International Odonata Research Institute, devoted to the study of dragonflies and damselflies.

For more information about the systematics of dragonflies and damselflies, visit the Tree of Life.

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