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Odonata

Odonata is an order of insects, encompassing dragonflies (Anisoptera) and damselflies (Zygoptera). The word dragonfly is also sometimes used to refer to all Odonata.

Description[]

These insects characteristically have large rounded heads covered mostly by well-developed, compound eyes, legs that facilitate catching prey (other insects) in flight, two pairs of long, transparent wings that move independently, and elongated abdomens. They have two ocelli and short antennae. The mouthparts are on the underside of the head and include simple chewing mandibles in the adult.

In most families there is a structure on the leading edge near the tip of the wing called the pterostigma. This is a thickened, blood–filled and often colorful area bounded by veins. The functions of the pterostigma are not fully known, but it most probably has an aerodynamic effect and also a visual function. More mass at the end of the wing may also reduce the energy needed to move the wings up and down. The right combination of wing stiffness and wing mass could reduce the energy consumption of flying. A pterostigma is also found among other insects, such as bees.

The nymphs have stockier, shorter, bodies than the adults. In addition to lacking wings, their eyes are smaller, their antennae longer, and their heads are less mobile than in the adult. Their mouthparts are modified, with the labium being adapted into a unique prehensile organ for grasping prey. Damselfly nymphs breathe through external gills on the abdomen, while dragonfly nymphs respire through an organ in their rectum.

Although generally fairly similar, dragonflies differ from damselflies in several, easily recognizable traits. Dragonflies are strong fliers with fairly robust bodies and at rest hold their wings either out to the side or out and downward (or even somewhat forward). Damselflies tend to be less robust, even rather weak appearing in flight, and when at rest most species hold their wings folded back over the abdomen (see photograph below, left). Dragonfly eyes occupy much of the animal's head, touching (or nearly touching) each other across the face. In damselflies, there is typically a gap between the eyes.

Dragonfly wing

Differences in Dragonfly and Damselfly Wings

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