Thursday, 16 February 2017

Dragonfly mimic

No, it looks like a dragonfly with that long thick abdomen and large wings, but it's a mimic, an Owlfly

Whenever I go out to look for one thing; plant, animal etc, I usually find something else that intrigues me, and while out on my recent dragonfly hunts I found this wonderful creature. It is an Owlfly a neuroptera species, classified in the Ascalaphidae family. What a marvellous dragonfly mimic. I went chasing through the grass after it, believing it was a dragonfly, and although I did think the habitat was a bit dry and dense for a dragonfly I continued my pursuit. Then when it rested on a grass stem I immediately saw I was being fooled. Dragonflies do not have such crazily long antennae.

Seen from above, those antennae are so, so long and club-ended - capitate antennae,
and the abdomen looks even more dragonfly-like

I walked around the owlfly, taking shots without disturbing it, and I could not think of any insect with that body shape and body-length antennae. So I sent off some photographs to Harvey Perkins, my insect guru, and he immediately replied with its identity and congratulated me on my good find.

The posture is dragonfly-like and I was fooled until I noticed the antennae

Apart from the antennae, the Owfly's mimicry is excellent. There are wing-spots, large eyes, and the patterned abdomen, all just like those on a dragonfly.

A Tau Emerald dragonfly Hemicordata tau hangs resting - note the wing-spots and large eyes

The dragonfly above and damselfly below both have tiny setaceous antennae (bristle-like) and the owlfly seemed to hold its wings in a position part-way between how the two odonata hold their wings.

So why do Owlflies mimic dragonflies, perhaps because dragonflies are aggressive predators, and so any smaller predators might not approach the owlflies if they see them as possible dragonflies. Hence, the owlflies escape predation. But would a dragonfly attack an Owlfly I wonder.....

A Wandering Ringtail damselfly Austrolestes leda  rests on a reed stem
 - note the tiny setaceous (bristle-like) antennae, the thin lines arching up from inside the blue of the eyes  

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