Stunning closeup of a dragonfly
Dragonflies are some of the most efficient hunters in the insect world, sort of super predators. They hardly ever stop feeding on flies, mosquitoes and even butterflies in flight. The dynamics of capturing an object in mid-air are staggeringly complex, and dragonflies calculate three things during a hunt: the distance to their prey, the direction it’s moving, and the speed it’s flying. In the space of milliseconds, the dragonfly calculates its angle of approach and, like a horror movie monster, it’s already waiting while the hapless fly stumbles right into its clutches. Selective attention span allows the dragonfly to single out one target in a swarm, then zero in on it
exclusively—while remaining aware of the the rest of the swarm to avoid a collision. Dragonflies are incredibly efficient at what they do, bringing in close to 95 percent of the prey they set out to capture.
The dragonfly’s main weapons are it’s eyes and wings. Dragonfly eyes have up to 30,000 individual facets and four or five opsins, allowing them to perceive the normal color spectrum, along with UV light and the plane of light polarization (the effect you get with polarized sunglasses). The massive bulbous eyes of a dragonfly wrap around its head like an astronaut’s helmet, giving it a 360 degree view of the world.
One of the most distinguishing features of dragonflies is the way their wings work. Their four wings operate independently of each other, allowing it to maneuver in mid-air like a helicopter—they can hover, fly forwards, backwards, and sideways, and instantly change direction whenever they need to. Dragonflies can even fly upside down if they need to.
Photograph by Tony Rath
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