If you are asked: what do dragon flies eat? you may not be able to answer with ease, but if you were asked to think of a ferocious killer animal you would probably think of a lion, and for all the wonderful predatory skills that a lion has it still only has about 20% success rate at catching a meal.
Now, one of the most successful hunters in the entire animal kingdom is surprisingly the dragonfly.
Dragonflies are killer flies and when they see a smaller fly, they have about a 97% chance of catching it for a meal and this is in mid-flight. But how can such a small insect be so precise in its hunting?
In this article, We are going to see how the dragonfly’s brain is highly specialized to make it a deadly killer.
What Makes The Dragonfly One of the Most Successful Predators in the Animal Kingdom?
One of the factors that make the dragonfly one of the most successful predators in the animal kingdom is its eyes.
The eye of a dragonfly has a near 360-degree vision of the wings. With individual control of its wings, this insect could move precisely in any direction. But the real secret to the dragonfly’s success is how its brain works.
Its brain needs complex information between the eyes and the wings and turns hunting into a simple reflex.
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A Study of the Dragonfly’s Brain
To study this, one of our top researchers Donald has been spending a lot of time socializing with dragonflies.
What do you need to carry out this experiment? First of all, you need dragonflies (A mesh can be used to catch the dragonflies). (The more I worked with them (dragonflies), the more terrified I got of them. They are actually very scary, especially under a microscope, and have really sharp mandibles): Donald said.
They are generally pretty aggressive which also helps them to be really good predators. Now in order to learn what is going on inside the dragonfly’s brain when it spots prey, you would need to eavesdrop on a conversation between the eyes and the wings to do that.
You need to anesthetize the dragonfly on ice and make sure its wings are protected with utmost care so that it can be released afterward.
The dragonfly’s brain is made up of specialized cells called neurons. These neurons are what allow the dragonfly to see and move so quickly. Individual neurons form circuits by connecting to each other.
Long-time threads are called axons and the neurons communicate over these axons using electricity. In the dragonfly, you are going to place little metal wires or electrodes along the axon tracks.
This is what is really cool; in the dragonfly, there are only 16 neurons that tell the wings exactly where the target is.
Do well to place the electrode so that you can record from these neurons that connect the eyes to the wings. Whenever a message is being passed from the eye to the wing, your electrode intercepts that conversation in the form of an electrical current and you should be able to both hear it and see it in the form of a spike, which we also call an action potential.
Place the dragonfly flipped upside down So he is looking down towards the ground. Next, you are going to take a prey or what we sometimes call its target. In this case, the target is going to be a ‘fake fly’.
Move the fake fly into the dragonfly’s site and observe what happens to the electrode.
You should not see any spikes when you go forward but returning back the spikes seem to appear on the electrode.
Our experiments were able to show that the neurons of the dragonfly fired when we move the target (fake fly) in one direction, but not the other.
Why is that? Do not forget we said that the dragonfly had near 360-degree vision. Well, there is a section of the eye called the fovea and this is the part that has the sharpest visual sharpness and you can think of it as its crosshairs.
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How Do Dragon Flies Hunt What they Eat?
Remember, we said the dragonfly has individual precise control, so what does a dragonfly’s wing do when it spots its prey? What it does is: sends messages only to the neurons that control the parts of the wings that are needed to keep the dragonfly on target.
So, if the prey is on the left of the dragonfly only the neurons that are tugging the wings on the left are fired; and if the prey moves to the right of the dragonfly, those same neurons are not needed so they are going to remain quiet and the dragonfly speeds at the prey at a fixed angle.
This is communicated by the crosshairs to the wings and then boom, dinner is served. All this happens in a split second and seems to be effortless for the dragonfly (it is almost like a reflex).
This whole incredibly efficient process is called fixation, but there is one more story to this process. Want to find out? then keep reading!
What Do Dragon Flies Eat?
For food, they’ll gobble up anything from mosquito larvae to the young of other dragon flies. Even little fish and amphibians can be eaten by larger larvae.
When the dragonflies reach adulthood, they emerge from the water and learn to hunt in the air. As they soar through the air on their new wings, they’ll snag anything in their path, from mosquitos to moths. Most of their prey is caught in mid-air by grabbing hold of the legs of the predators that fly by.
Dragonflies use their jaws to consume their prey, chewing it up and swallowing it whole. The only difference between this and how we normally eat is that the food is still alive.
In contrast, a dragonfly’s jaw has multiple components, including the mandibles, which are used to grip and shred up food, and the maxillae, which aid in the process of chomping down on it.
What Do Dragon Flies Eat (Vertebrates)?
Dragon flies eat flies as their primary food source. There are more than 120,000 kinds of flies in the world, and most people associate them with common household pests like house flies and blue bottles. Because of this, the dragonfly has a lot of food to eat.
In both their larval and adult forms, dragonflies will eat mosquitoes, which are excellent for their diets. For immature dragonflies, larvae are an ideal source of food, whereas a mature dragonfly can catch mosquitoes in mid-air while flying.
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If dragonflies come upon flying ants or an ant colony, they’ll consume them. When there are no other tempting nibbles nearby, they will pick up lone ants from the floor, but because they spend most of their time flying, this is less common.
Despite the nasty chemicals in ladybugs, dragonflies still consume them. Most of the time, they’ll catch and consume them as they fly by. In most cases, wing casings are thrown away since they contain little nutritious content. Dragonflies are able to fly circles around the ladybird because of their greater agility.
Dragonflies consume with little fuss. There is a good chance they will eat it if it’s smaller than them and they can get their hands on it! Because aphids are smaller and more frequent than dragonflies, they are ideal prey for these scavengers.
Whether dragonflies or spiders are eating each other is a common question. When it comes to spiders and dragonflies, the truth is that it’s not always a one-way street. There is a slew of possibilities for encounters between the two parties.
Young spiders that are ballooning (flying through the air on a strand of silk) may come across dragonfly larvae, while aquatic spiders may come across dragonfly pupae. Dragonflies may run into spiders while they perch on their webs.
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Do Dragon Flies Drink Water?
The food that insects eat provides them with the majority of the water they require. Some people, on the other hand, will only drink when absolutely necessary. Insects, such as dragonflies, can sip raindrops on plants or directly from water sources. Taking a sip of water from a pond or river can be dangerous, since hungry animals may be lurking below.
Despite the fact that dragonflies use their mouths to drink, many people mistakenly believe that they may drink by dipping the tips of their tails into the water. This is actually the female dragonfly laying her eggs.
What Eats Dragon Flies?
It doesn’t imply that dragonflies don’t occasionally find themselves at the bottom of the food chain. Many creatures relish the opportunity to eat a delectable dragonfly when available.
Unfortunately, dragonflies are frequently preyed upon by fish, especially the larvae that reside in the water alongside them. Insects like dragonfly larvae are swiftly eaten by fish in wildlife ponds, which is why it’s a good idea not to stock them with fish in the first place.
Many birds will eat dragonflies if they can get their hands on them, as well as fish. These species are popular enough among birds that some people pursue them as a hobby.
Smaller invertebrates, as well as creatures of a larger size, will gladly consume a dragonfly if given the chance. Dragonflies captured in webs by spiders will be eaten by them, whereas ants will happily munch on a newly emerging dragonfly, still unable to fly away.
How Does the Dragonfly Know Its Target Is Not A Predator?
From the above experiment (study) we carried out (which you may have probably tried out too) we saw how the neurons respond to movements. But how does the dragonfly know that its target is the prey?
This is where size matters. Another experiment will be carried out to provide answers to this question! Now, start by showing the dragonfly a series of targets (dots in this case).
Out of all the dots(ranging in sizes) (from big dots to small dots), we found that the dragonfly responded to smaller targets over larger ones. In other words, the dragonfly was programmed to go after smaller flies (target) instead of something much larger than it like a bird (predator).
What do dragon flies eat? As soon as the dragonfly recognizes something that is prey, the poor little fly only has seconds to live.
Today, we got to see how the dragonfly’s brain works to make it a very efficient killer and successful predator in the animal kingdom. And do not forget to be thankful that we were not smaller than the dragonflies (what a disaster it would have been).
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