I thought I’d share a picture I took of a dragonfly nymph’s exoskeleton. The picture was taken on the shore of Lake Penage, in Ontario.

dragonfly nymph exoskeleton

The larval stage of large dragonflies may last as long as five years. In smaller species, this stage may last between two months and three years. When the larva is ready to metamorphose into an adult, it climbs up a reed or other emergent plant. Exposure to air causes the larva to begin breathing. The skin splits at a weak spot behind the head and the adult dragonfly crawls out of its old larval skin, pumps up its wings, and flies off to feed on midges and flies. Note in the image above, the weak spot (a hole) is visible to the right of the future wings.

In flight the adult dragonfly can propel itself in six directions; upward, downward, forward, back, and side to side. The adult stage of larger species of dragonfly can last as long as five or six months.

I am constantly in awe of nature, especially when taking a macro shot with my camera – there is a completely different world when you reduce or enlarge the scale of your frame of reference. There’s clearly no need to invent alien creatures when we have plenty of them right here on Earth.

Image copyright Bill Litshauer, 2010