Monday, October 15, 2007

Dragonfly1

As an adult, this week’s EUT is a dazzling green aerobat, a thing to behold as it zips through the air, decreasing the mosquito population. As a youngster, it is a brown, hairy spider-like thing that lurks at the bottom of wetlands. It uses a projectile jaw to snatch at unsuspecting prey that swims by, as if something from Alien. It is still ultimately helping with the mosquito population.
Image from University of Michigan
Image from University of Michigan


The Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana), like all dragonflies (and damselflies, for that matter), are always found near water habitats. Not only are these prime habitats for the flying insects that make up their prey, they provide a good place to raise the kids, who are entirely aquatic. The Hine’s Dragonfly website2 mentions that mosquitoes and deerflies3 make up a large amount of the adult’s diet. Since the larvae of both of those are aquatic, you can believe that the Dragonfly larvae eat them. Once they get big enough, the Dragonfly larvae might even go for some small fish. The projectile jaw can be seen in action in this short video, though I can tell you it’s not a Hine’s Emerald. The jaw works the same, though.

The reason that I have no issue posting about these flitting jewels is that, for all intents and purposes, the adults aren’t in danger. The larvae, however, have problems as the wetlands are continually polluted by runoff and pesticides, filled in, and drained. They used to be found in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin and Missouri. They haven’t been seen in Ohio and Indiana since 1961.

The recovery plan for the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly mostly involves protecting the wetlands in which they’re already found. Many places are more and more worried about the states of their wetlands, since they’re discovering the ecological role that these habitats play. I know Ohio has its Rapid Assessment Methods for wetlands to designate and classify the state of wetlands. In the “Why Wetlands Are Important” Section of this site, it says that: “They are often referred to as ‘nature’s kidneys’…” This is an accurate, if slightly disgusting metaphor, since they filter out all the disgusting chemicals that flow through “nature’s veins.” Just remember, if you throw too much crap into the kidneys, they die, taking the rest of the body with them. “Nature’s dialysis machine” would not look pretty.

Edit: This is completely off topic, but I just found the blog of the people searching for the Attenborough's Echidna, which I wrote about a few months ago. It looks like they're getting close to finding it, too!

1There are about 12 songs called "Dragonfly." Pick one to use for this title.
2To quote directly: “The ugly larvae have been called little "dirt balls" since dirt clings to the hairs that cover their bodies.”
3Let me tell you, when, while doing stream studies, the desire to do terrible things to deerfly larvae is overwhelming.

2 comments:

Phantom Midge said...

Hey, did you see this post about Hine's:
http://michodo.blogspot.com/2005/07/show-me-your-hiney.html

Nice title, huh ;-)

Lauren said...

Hiya,
I just stumbled across your blog, and I love it! I'm an insect nerd and have a soft spot for the ugly creatures, so I'm really enjoying your posts and I look forward to reading more :-)

Lauren