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Winged Warriors:The Dragonfly's Airborne Supremacy

Which animal do you find the most fascinating, and why?


To be honest, I don't think I can answer such a question. Nature is full of captivating creatures that ignite my curiosity. Until not long ago, I was in love with birds and would have probably chosen one with esoteric behaviour, maybe the Cuckoo or one of the Australian bowerbirds. However, as I delve deeper into the wonders of the animal kingdom, my fascination has shifted to the realm of insects, a realm in which nothing is regular and surprises are everywhere. And while tomorrow you may find me fascinated by a different bug altogether, my choice for the day would be dragonflies and their relatives, damselflies.


By the way, as I am often asked about the photos in my blog, so to clarify, all the photos in this post were taken by me. If you explore my website, you can find many more.


 

Dragonflies – the ultimate hunters


So back to dragonflies – the ultimate hunters.


Let's start with some stats. The most successful hunter among land animals is probably the cheetah which will catch its prey about 6 or 7 times out of 10 attempts (lions and leopards, for instance, catch only 4 of 10). The most successful marine hunter is the Antarctic minke whale, which catches its prey 8 times out of every 10 attempts. And what about birds, you may be asking? The most successful is the peregrine falcon, with a catch rate of over 50 per cent.



But dragonflies make all these amazing hunters look like incompetent amateurs. With a 95% success rate, the dragonfly is arguably the most successful hunter in the entire animal kingdom. That is, when it locks onto its target, it does not fail.

 

The secret of their success

How can it outperform mammals and birds?


This question is particularly intriguing when we consider the complexity of hunting and the limited number of neurons in the brain of a dragonfly compared to the other hunters.


For comparison, a dragonfly will only have a few hundred thousand neurons. A falcon has about 1 billion, 2,000 times more neurons than a dragonfly. A cheetah is likely to have 2-5 billion, and a whale has over 60 billion neurons – 120,000 times more than the dragonfly.  


But the dragonfly's body and brains are honed for a single purpose – hunting. They are the ultimate predators.


Let’s start with their eyes. The dragonfly's eyes are shaped like bulging balls outside their head. That gives them a nearly spherical vision, meaning you can be in front of them, under them, above them, or even behind them, and they will still see you. You simply cannot hide!



 

Each of their eyes is composed of thousands of small eyes, known as ommatidia (some species up to 30,000). Each ommatidium contains a cluster of photoreceptors. These ommatidia work together to form a mosaic-like image, providing the dragonfly with a wide field of view and excellent motion detection capabilities. 


But that’s not all. Unlike humans, who are limited to perceiving 16-20 frames per second (at a higher rate our brain interpolates the images into a ‘movie’) the dragonfly's brain is capable of processing up to 300 separate images per second. This extraordinary ability enables them to accurately perceive the location of their prey in three-dimensional space and lock onto it, adjusting their speed and direction until their target is hit.


And speed and direction change they can produce. Some dragonflies can go from hovering on the spot to 95 kilometres per hour (60 mph) in a fraction of a second. Thanks to their rare ability to control each wing separately, akin to aircraft in some Sci-Fi movies, they can abruptly change the direction of their flight, even at high speeds.


 

Hunting is just the beginning of what makes dragonflies so captivating. Witness them in action during summer and reveal for yourself a world of mysteries. The more you observe, the more you'll be awestruck by their incredible nature.


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Happy nature exploration!


 

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2 comentarios


Invitado
17 feb

Extremely interesting insights and absolutely stunning photos! I had no idea what high performance creatures they were. So challenging to take such excellent photos of them flying! I wonder how you did it. Thank you for this great post!

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Ran Fuchs
Ran Fuchs
18 feb
Contestando a

Thank you for your encouraging feedback. I hope that more people will get to appreciate these amazing creature, and other animals as well. The more you watch and learn about any creature, the more fascinating the world becomes.

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