29 Aug

How to Train your Dragon

When you think of dragons, you get images of teeth, wings, fire, scales and tails. Your next thought is to dismiss the mental picture as fictitious.

Dragons are real. You read right, dragons are real. You can find them all across the world, and in a pond near you. These dragons might not be as large as those fought by knights and they don’t breathe fire but everything else is pretty much the same.

Wait, did you say… Dragons?

Go on a walk to the nearest pond, and look out across the water. You will see a winged monster called the dragonfly. It flew long before dinosaurs took their first steps. Though smaller than its distant relative, the dragonfly shares many of the same traits. You don’t need to worry, dragonflies are harmless to humans, but to prey…it is a completely different story. When you think of magnificent hunters, lions and tigers are on the list, they only capture fifty percent of their prey. The dragonfly catches ninety to ninety-five percent. That means if you’re an insect and a dragonfly sets its sights on you, there’s no escape, you’re going to be dinner.

Masters of the Sky

They move fast. It will be difficult for your eyes to follow their aerial acrobatics. Dragonflies come equipped with four wings and each can be moved independently. They can fly straight up and down, backwards, upside-down, and hover. When flying forward they can reach speeds up to thirty miles per hour. Not even mythical dragons can out fly the real thing. You’ll notice that their eyes dominate their head. A dragonfly can see nearly three hundred and sixty degrees.

Sharp Teeth

Dragonflies come from the order of insects called Odonata, which mean “toothed one.” If you have a chance to look, you will notice that dragonflies have rows of serrated teeth, much like a great white shark. With long legs, they catch insects in midair and chew them apart. If dragonflies live around your house be grateful, they can catch anywhere from thirty to several hundred mosquitos per day. If you think a cheetah is fast, a dragonfly can catch its victim in half a second.

Masters of the Water

They might not breathe fire, but as a naiad (nymph) they do breathe water. Dragonflies spend their first few years underwater. They have special lungs located in the posterior end. Yes, they breathe through their butt. Expelling water also gives them an additional means of locomotion. You might think that the younger version might be a nicer version of the dragonfly, yet dragonfly naiads are every bit as mean as the adult. They stalk prey through ponds and eat everything; tadpoles, minnows, mosquito larvae…all fall victim to the hungry dragonfly. In true dragon fashion, they will even eat each other. That’s survival of the fittest, or in the case of the dragonfly, survival of the fastest.

Next time you get a chance to watch a modern-day dragon zip through the sky, just remember that without them mosquitoes would rule the skies.

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