Dragonflies are generally larger, and perch with their wings held out to the sides; damselflies have slender bodies, and hold their wings over the body at rest.
Temporal range: Early Permian–Recent
|Tau emerald (Hemicordulia tau) dragonfly|
Fabricius coined the term Odonata from the Ancient Greek ὀδών odṓn (Ionic form of ὀδούς odoús) 'tooth' apparently because they have teeth on their mandibles, even though most insects also have toothed mandibles.
The word dragonfly is also sometimes used to refer to all Odonata, but odonate is a more correct English name for the group as a whole. Odonata enthusiasts avoid ambiguity by using the term true dragonfly, or simply Anisopteran, when referring to just the Anisoptera. The term Warriorfly has also been proposed. Some 5,900 species have been described in this order.
This order has traditionally been grouped together with the mayflies and several extinct orders in a group called the "Paleoptera", but this grouping might be paraphyletic. What they do share with mayflies is the nature of how the wings are articulated and held in rest (see insect flight for a detailed discussion).
In some treatments, the Odonata are understood in an expanded sense, essentially synonymous with the superorder Odonatoptera but not including the prehistoric Protodonata. In this approach, instead of Odonatoptera, the term Odonatoidea is used. The systematics of the "Palaeoptera" are by no means resolved; what can be said however is that regardless of whether they are called "Odonatoidea" or "Odonatoptera", the Odonata and their extinct relatives do form a clade.
The Anisoptera was long treated as a suborder, with a third suborder, the "Anisozygoptera" (ancient dragonflies). However, the combined suborder Epiprocta (in which Anisoptera is an infraorder) was proposed when it was found that the "Anisozygoptera" was paraphyletic, composed of mostly extinct offshoots of dragonfly evolution. The four living species placed in that group are (in this treatment) in the infraorder Epiophlebioptera, whereas the fossil taxa that were formerly there are now dispersed about the Odonatoptera (or Odonata sensu lato). World Odonata List considers Anisoptera as a suborder along with Zygoptera and Anisozygoptera as well-understood and widely preferred terms.
The phylogenetic tree of the orders and suborders of odonates according to Bechly (2002):
The largest living odonate is the giant Central American helicopter damselfly Megaloprepus coerulatus (Zygoptera: Pseudostigmatidae) with a wing span of 191 mm. The heaviest living odonates are Tetracanthagyna plagiata (Anisoptera: Aeshnidae) with a wing span of 165 mm, and Petalura ingentissima (Anisoptera: Petaluridae) with a body length of 117 mm (some sources 125 mm) and wing span of 160 mm. The longest extant odonate is the Neotropical helicopter damselfly Mecistogaster linearis (Zygoptera: Pseudostigmatidae) with a body length of 135 mm. Sometimes the giant Hawaiian darner Anax strenuus (Anisoptera: Aeshnidae) is claimed to be the largest living odonate with an alleged wing span of 190 mm, but this seems to be rather a myth as only 152 mm are scientifically documented.
Odonata and their ancestors come from one of the oldest winged insect groups. The fossils of odonates and their cousins Paleozoic "giant dragonflies" like Meganeuropsis permiana from the Permian of North America with up to 71 cm wing span and 43 cm body length have been the largest insects of all times and belonged to the order Meganisoptera, the griffinflies, related to odonates but not part of the modern order Odonata in the restricted sense have one of the most complete records going back 319 million years ago.
The smallest living dragonfly is Nannophya pygmaea (Anisoptera: Libellulidae) from east Asia, which a body length of 15 mm and a wing span of 20 mm, and the smallest damselflies (and smallest odonates of all times) are species of the genus Agriocnemis (Zygoptera: Coenagrionidae) with a wing span of only 17–18 mm.
These insects characteristically have large rounded heads covered mostly by well-developed, compound eyes, legs that facilitate catching prey (other insects) in flight, two pairs of long, transparent wings that move independently, and elongated abdomens. They have three ocelli and short antennae. The mouthparts are on the underside of the head and include simple chewing mandibles in the adult.
Flight in the Odonata is direct, with flight muscles attaching directly to the wings; rather than indirect, with flight muscles attaching to the thorax, as is found in the Neoptera. This allows active control of the amplitude, frequency, angle of attack, camber and twist of each of the four wings entirely independently.
In most families there is a structure on the leading edge near the tip of the wing called the pterostigma. This is a thickened, hemolymph–filled and often colorful area bounded by veins. The functions of the pterostigma are not fully known, but it most probably has an aerodynamic effect and may also have a visual function. More mass at the end of the wing may also reduce the energy needed to move the wings up and down. The right combination of wing stiffness and wing mass could reduce the energy consumption of flying. A pterostigma is also found among other insects, such as bees.
The nymphs have stockier, shorter, bodies than the adults. In addition to lacking wings, their eyes are smaller, their antennae longer, and their heads are less mobile than in the adult. Their mouthparts are modified, with the labium being adapted into a unique prehensile organ for grasping prey. Damselfly nymphs breathe through external gills on the abdomen, while dragonfly nymphs respire through an organ in their rectum.
Although generally fairly similar, dragonflies differ from damselflies in several, easily recognizable traits. Dragonflies are strong fliers with fairly robust bodies and at rest hold their wings either out to the side or out and downward (or even somewhat forward). Damselflies tend to be less robust, even rather weak appearing in flight, and when at rest most species hold their wings folded back over the abdomen (see photograph below, left). Dragonfly eyes occupy much of the animal's head, touching (or nearly touching) each other across the face. In damselflies, there is typically a gap in between the eyes.
Odonates are aquatic or semi-aquatic as juveniles. Thus, adults are most often seen near bodies of water and are frequently described as aquatic insects. However, many species range far from water. They are carnivorous (or more specifically insectivorous) throughout their life, mostly feeding on smaller insects.
Male Odonata have complex genitalia, different from those found in other insects. These include grasping cerci for holding the female and a secondary set of copulatory organs on the abdomen in which the sperm are held after being produced by the primary genitals. To mate, the male grasps the female by the thorax or head and bends her abdomen so that her own genitalia can be grasped by the copulatory organs holding the sperm. Male odonates have a copulatory organ on the ventral side of abdominal segment 2 in which they store spermatozoa; they mate by holding the female's head (Anisoptera) or thorax (Zygoptera) with claspers located at the tip of the male abdomen; the female bends her abdomen forward to touch the male organ and receive sperm. This is called the "wheel" position.
Eggs are laid in water or on vegetation near water or wet places, and hatch to produce pronymphs which live off the nutrients that were in the egg. They then develop into instars with approximately 9–14 molts that are (in most species) voracious predators on other aquatic organisms, including small fishes. The nymphs grow and molt, usually in dusk or dawn, into the flying teneral immature adults, whose color is not yet developed. These insects later transform into reproductive adults.
Odonates can act as bioindicators of water quality in rivers because they rely on high quality water for proper development in early life. Since their diet consists entirely of insects, odonate density is directly proportional to the population of prey, and their abundance indicates the abundance of prey in the examined ecosystem. Species richness of vascular plants has also been positively correlated with the species richness of dragonflies in a given habitat. This means that in a location such as a lake, if one finds a wide variety of odonates, then a similarly wide variety of plants should also be present. This correlation is not common to all bioindicators, as some may act as indicators for a different environmental factor, such as the pool frog acting as a bioindicator of water quality due to its high quantity of time spent in and around water.
In addition, odonates are very sensitive to changes to average temperature. Many species have moved to higher elevations and latitudes as global temperature rises and habitats dry out. Changes to the life cycle have been recorded with increased development of the instar stages and smaller adult body size as the average temperature increases. As the territory of many species starts to overlap, the rate hybridization of species that normally do not come in contact is increasing. If global climate change continues many members of Odonata will start to disappear. Because odonates are such an old order and have such a complete fossil record they are an ideal species to study insect evolution and adaptation. For example, they are one of the first insects to develop flight and it is likely that this trait only evolved once in insects, looking at how flight works in odonates, the rest of flight can be mapped out.
The insect family Aeshnidae, sometimes called aeshnids, comprises the hawkers (or darners in North America). They are the largest dragonflies found in North America and Europe and are among the largest dragonflies on the planet. This family represents also the fastest flying dragonflies of the order of the dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata).Calopterygidae
The Calopterygidae are a family of damselflies, in the suborder Zygoptera.
They are commonly known as the broad-winged damselflies, demoiselles, or jewelwings. These rather large damselflies have wingspans of 50–80 mm (compared to about 44 mm in the common bluetail damselfly, Ischnura elegans) and are often metallic-coloured. The family contains some 150 species.
The Calopterygidae are found on every continent except Antarctica. They live along rivers and streams.Coenagrionidae
The insect family Coenagrionidae is placed in the order Odonata and the suborder Zygoptera.
The Zygoptera are the damselflies, which although less known than the dragonflies, are no less common. More than 1,300 species are in this family, making it the largest damselfly family. The family Coenagrionidae has six subfamilies: Agriocnemidinae, Argiinae, Coenagrioninae, Ischnurinae, Leptobasinae, and Pseudagrioninae.This family is referred to as the narrow-winged damselflies or the pond damselflies. The Coenagrionidae enjoy a worldwide distribution, and are among the most common of damselfly families. This family has the smallest of damselfly species. More than 110 genera of the family Coenagrionidae are currently accepted.Corduliidae
The insect family Corduliidae contains the emerald dragonflies or green-eyed skimmers. These dragonflies are usually black or dark brown with areas of metallic green or yellow, and most of them have large, emerald-green eyes. The larvae are black, hairy-looking, and usually semiaquatic. Members of this family include the baskettails, emeralds, river cruisers, sundragons, shadowdragons, and boghaunters. They are not uncommon and are found nearly worldwide, but some individual species are quite rare. Hine's emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana), for example, is an endangered species in the United States.Damselfly
Damselflies are insects of the suborder Zygoptera in the order Odonata. They are similar to dragonflies, which constitute the other odonatan suborder, Anisoptera, but are smaller, have slimmer bodies, and most species fold the wings along the body when at rest. An ancient group, damselflies have existed since at least the Lower Permian, and are found on every continent except Antarctica.
All damselflies are predatory; both nymphs and adults eat other insects. The nymphs are aquatic, with different species living in a variety of freshwater habitats including acid bogs, ponds, lakes and rivers. The nymphs moult repeatedly, at the last moult climbing out of the water to undergo metamorphosis. The skin splits down the back, they emerge and inflate their wings and abdomen to gain their adult form. Their presence on a body of water indicates that it is relatively unpolluted, but their dependence on freshwater makes them vulnerable to damage to their wetland habitats.
Some species of damselfly have elaborate courtship behaviours. Many species are sexually dimorphic, the males often being more brightly coloured than the females. Like dragonflies, they reproduce using indirect insemination and delayed fertilisation. A mating pair form a shape known as a "heart" or "wheel", the male clasping the female at the back of the head, the female curling her abdomen down to pick up sperm from secondary genitalia at the base of the male's abdomen. The pair often remain together with the male still clasping the female while she lays eggs within the tissue of plants in or near water using a robust ovipositor.
Fishing flies that mimic damselfly nymphs are used in wet-fly fishing. Damselflies sometimes provide the subject for personal jewellery such as brooches.Dragonfly
A dragonfly is an insect belonging to the order Odonata, infraorder Anisoptera (from Greek ἄνισος anisos, "unequal" and πτερόν pteron, "wing", because the hindwing is broader than the forewing). Adult dragonflies are characterized by large, multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong, transparent wings, sometimes with coloured patches, and an elongated body. Dragonflies can be mistaken for the related group, damselflies (Zygoptera), which are similar in structure, though usually lighter in build; however, the wings of most dragonflies are held flat and away from the body, while damselflies hold the wings folded at rest, along or above the abdomen. Dragonflies are agile fliers, while damselflies have a weaker, fluttery flight. Many dragonflies have brilliant iridescent or metallic colours produced by structural coloration, making them conspicuous in flight. An adult dragonfly's compound eyes have nearly 24,000 ommatidia each.
Fossils of very large dragonfly ancestors in the Protodonata are found from 325 million years ago (Mya) in Upper Carboniferous rocks; these had wingspans up to about 750 mm (30 in). There are about 3,000 extant species. Most are tropical, with fewer species in temperate regions.
Dragonflies are predators, both in their aquatic larval stage, when they are known as nymphs or naiads, and as adults. Several years of their lives are spent as nymphs living in fresh water; the adults may be on the wing for just a few days or weeks. They are fast, agile fliers, sometimes migrating across oceans, and often live near water. They have a uniquely complex mode of reproduction involving indirect insemination, delayed fertilization, and sperm competition. During mating, the male grasps the female at the back of the head, and the female curls her abdomen under her body to pick up sperm from the male's secondary genitalia at the front of his abdomen, forming the "heart" or "wheel" posture.
Loss of wetland habitat threatens dragonfly populations around the world. Dragonflies are represented in human culture on artifacts such as pottery, rock paintings, and Art Nouveau jewelry. They are used in traditional medicine in Japan and China, and caught for food in Indonesia. They are symbols of courage, strength, and happiness in Japan, but seen as sinister in European folklore. Their bright colours and agile flight are admired in the poetry of Lord Tennyson and the prose of H. E. Bates.Epiprocta
Epiprocta is one of the two extant suborders of the Odonata (the order to which dragonflies and damselflies belong). It was proposed relatively recently, having been created to accommodate the inclusion of the Anisozygoptera. The latter has been shown to be not a natural suborder, but rather a paraphyletic collection of lineages, so it has been combined with the previous suborder Anisoptera, the well-known dragonflies, into the Epiprocta. The old suborder Anisoptera is proposed to become an infraorder within the Epiprocta, whereas the "anisozygopterans" included here form the infraorder Epiophlebioptera.Gomphidae
The Gomphidae are a family in the Odonata commonly referred to as clubtail dragonflies; the family contains about 90 genera and 900 species; individual species may be found across North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The name refers to the club-like widening of the end of the abdomen (abdominal segments 7 through 9). However, this club is usually less pronounced in females and is entirely absent in some species.Lestes
Lestes is a genus of damselfly in the family Lestidae.
The family hold their wings at about 45 degrees to the body when resting. This distinguishes them from most other species of damselflies which hold the wings along, and parallel to, the body when at rest.
The name Lestes comes from the Greek word ληστησ meaning predator.Lestidae
The Lestidae are a rather small family of cosmopolitan, large-sized, slender damselflies,
known commonly as the spreadwings or spread-winged damselflies.The two subfamilies in Lestidae are Lestinae and Sympecmatinae. Damselflies in the Lestinae rest with their wings partly open, while those in the Sympecmatinae, the reedlings, ringtails, and winter damselflies, rest with their wings folded. The exact taxonomy of the family is disputed, with some authorities including twelve genera and some eight.Libellulidae
The skimmers or perchers and their relatives form the Libellulidae, the largest dragonfly family in the world. It is sometimes considered to contain the Corduliidae as the subfamily Corduliinae and the Macromiidae as the subfamily Macromiinae. Even if these are excluded (as Silsby does), there still remains a family of over 1000 species. With nearly worldwide distribution, these are almost certainly the most often seen of all dragonflies.
The genus Libellula is mostly New World, but also has one of the few endangered odonates from Japan: Libellula angelina. Many of the members of this genus are brightly colored or have banded wings. The related genus Plathemis includes the whitetails. The genus Celithemis contains several brightly marked species in the southern United States. Members of the genus Sympetrum are called darters (or meadowhawks in North America) and are found throughout most of the world, except Australia. Several Southern Hemisphere species in the genera Trithemis and Zenithoptera are especially beautiful. Other common genera include Tramea and Pantala.
The libellulids have stout-bodied larvae with the lower lip or labium developed into a mask over the lower part of the face.List of Odonata species of Australia
This is a list of species of damselflies and dragonflies recorded in Australia.
Common names of species are linked, beside their scientific names.
The list is split into two groups: damselflies (suborder Zygoptera) and other dragonflies (infraorder Anisoptera).
Those groups are organized in Families and then Genera and Species.List of odonata species of India
The following is a list of the dragonflies and damselflies found in India.List of odonates of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a tropical island situated close to the southern tip of India. The invertebrate fauna is as large as it is common to other regions of the world. There are approximately 2 million known species of arthropods, and this number continues to grow. Thus, it is difficult to determine the exact number of Odonata species within particular regions. The following is a list of the dragonflies and damselflies of Sri Lanka.Metapterygota
Metapterygota is a clade of winged insects containing order Odonata and Infraclass Neoptera.Nymph (biology)
In biology, a nymph is the immature form of some invertebrates, particularly insects, which undergoes gradual metamorphosis (hemimetabolism) before reaching its adult stage. Unlike a typical larva, a nymph's overall form already resembles that of the adult, except for a lack of wings (in winged species). In addition, while a nymph moults it never enters a pupal stage. Instead, the final moult results in an adult insect. Nymphs undergo multiple stages of development called instars.
This is the case, for example, in Orthoptera (crickets and grasshoppers), Hemiptera (cicadas, shield bugs, etc.), mayflies, termites, cockroaches, mantises, stoneflies and Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies).Nymphs of aquatic insects, as in the Odonata, Ephemeroptera, and Plecoptera, are also called naiads, an Ancient Greek name for mythological water nymphs. In older literature, these were sometimes referred to as the heterometabolous insects, as their adult and immature stages live in different environments (terrestrial vs. aquatic).Platycnemididae
The Platycnemididae are a family of damselflies.
They are known commonly as white-legged damselflies. There are over 400 species native to the Old World. The family is divided into several subfamilies.Pterygota
The Pterygota are a subclass of insects that includes the winged insects. It also includes insect orders that are secondarily wingless (that is, insect groups whose ancestors once had wings but that have lost them as a result of subsequent evolution).The pterygotan group comprises almost all insects. The insect orders not included are the Archaeognatha (jumping bristletails) and the Zygentoma (silverfishes and firebrats), two primitively wingless insect orders. Also not included are the three orders no longer considered to be insects: Protura, Collembola, and Diplura.Umma gumma
Not to be confused with Ummagumma, an album made by Pink Floyd.
Umma gumma is a species of damselfly in the family Calopterygidae. It was described in 2015 as a new species from Africa, and the species was named after the Pink Floyd album Ummagumma.
Extant Odonata families