Dragonflies are among the most ancient creatures alive today. Fossils of dragonflies date back to 300 million years ago, 100 million years before dinosaurs appeared on the planet.
The dragonfly hunts on the wing, capturing prey in basket traps formed by dangling, haired legs. Patrolling the edges of streams and ponds, males hunt, guard their territories and look for mates. Females hunt, receive mates and lay millions of eggs.
The aquatic juveniles hatch and grow in streams, ponds and marshes. They feed on small invertebrates, small fish and even tadpoles. Dragonfly nymphs breath through internal gills.
The juveniles live underwater for a year or longer, expanding in size and developing adult features through a series of molts. There will come a day when the nymph gorges with water and climbs out of the water, onto a rock or up the stem of a plant. The exoskeleton splits open and an adult emerges, without gills and with two gigantic eyes. The dragonfly hangs in place as new legs, wings and a long slender abdomen slowly dry and harden. Then it lifts into the air, reborn as a superbly designed flying machine.
Dragonflies are among the fastest flying insects. They are highly maneuverable, able to fly forwards, backwards, hover and turn 180 degrees. Two sets of wings beat in opposite directions, enabling remarkable feats of aerodynamics.
Enormous eyes provide exceptional vision and allows them to avoid predators. More than 80% of the dragonfly brain is used in analyzing visual data gathered by the compound eyes. Yet for all of their incredible adaptations, adult dragonflies live only a few weeks. In late fall they all die, while underwater the nymphs eat, grow, and prepare to take to the wing.