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Black meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum danae) mating
Courtesy of Martin Pusteln­k, via, CC-BY


About Dragonflies and Damselflies (Order Odonata): Reproduction

Mating is a gymnastic affair for dragonflies and damselflies. The male makes sperm at the tip of his abdomen, but his copulatory structure (penis) is higher up. Before mating, a male curves his tail to transfer sperm to his penis. Most males maintain territories to attract females. An attractive territory contains a good site for laying eggs, such as a patch of vegetation sticking out of the water. Once he has a female, the male clutches her with tong-like appendages at the end of his abdomen. In this "tandem" position the pair flies around until they both flex their bodies to bring the male's penis in contact with the tip of her tail. Once fertilized, the female inserts eggs into vegetation or just drops eggs into the water. The male may stand guard, still clutching her or perching nearby, while she lays the eggs. The eggs hatch into aquatic larvae that takes months or years to mature.

Canada darner (Aeshna canadensis) in flight
Courtesy of Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, CC-BY-NC-SA


About Insects (Class Insecta): Locomotion

Insects are the only animals without backbones (invertebrates) that can fly. Wings of insects are flat and paper-thin, supported by a network of veins. They flap their wings at incredible rates, up to about two hundred times per second. Most insects have two sets of wings that work in tandem because they are coupled by a fold, a hook, or other structure that catches the back wing as the front wing beats. Wings are made of two layers of cuticle for strength. The front wing is often hardened to serve as a protective cover, leaving the back wing to provide most of the flying power. Many insects walk around instead of, or in addition to, flying. The good walkers tend to touch three legs to the ground at a time, alternating with other sets of three (tripedal gait). The stable triangles formed by the legs allows them to move quickly without falling over. Some insects "walk" on water or swim.