Monday 12 December 2011

Himalayan Relict Dragonfly

Image: chochoensis
Now that we know all about the differences between Dragonflies and Damselflies, we can appreciate the confusion caused by the Himalayan Relict Dragonfly and its one and only related species.

The two of them look just like Dragonflies, with the comparatively thick body shape and huge eyes.

But look at the wings. They get narrow toward the base and all four of them are just about the same size and shape. They're even held up above the body when at rest. All of these are hallmarks of the Damselfly.

So what do we have here? A Damsonfly? A Dragonfly-in-Drag Fly?

For a long time it was thought that the Himalayan Relict was an evolutionary halfway point between Dragons and Damsels. A whole new suborder was created in Odonata, such that there was one for Dragonflies, one for Damselflies and a new one for this in-between stage.

It was later discovered that these oddities actually branched off from Dragonflies a lot more recently than the Damsels did. So it's not a halfway point at all, but a whole other journey that has left us with just 2 surviving species.

The Himalayan Relict Dragonfly does indeed come from the Himalayas, and breeds in streams at elevations of 1,800 to 3,500m (6,000 and 11,500 ft) in Nepal.

Perhaps it's the cold that makes the nymphs develop so slowly? They grow for 5 or 6 years before an adult is ready to emerge, thought to be longest of any odonate.

They are also said to be rather clumsy in flight, but they have very few predators in their habitat so they overcome that pretty well.

Their only close relative comes from Japan and looks almost identical.

Isn't it wonderful that this strange mash-up has managed to survive all this time to remind us that rules are made to be broken? Well done Dragselfly!


davesbrain said...

Good post - I didn't know about these, but have just been off and found out about the Epiophlebiidae :)

Joseph JG said...

Hey! I'm glad I could introduce a new addition to your brain, davesbrain!

TexWisGirl said...

dragonfly in drag? ha ha!

Joseph JG said...

:D I was quite pleased with that one!

Antione Strife said...

Interesting, I have a silly question. Can a dragon fly sting you?

Joseph JG said...

Nope! They have no equipment to sting. They can bite though, and the bigger they are the worse the bite is.

Crunchy said...

They can also make a rather startling buzz if you grab them by the tail (turns out they don't much care for that).

Joseph JG said...

Things with tails seldom seem to enjoy having it grabbed. Sometimes I wish I could have a tail for a while, see if I'd get annoyed, too.