In probably the coldest form of rejection known in the animal world, a recent study discovered that female dragonflies will play dead to avoid unwanted male attention.
Once she has already mated and laid her eggs for the season, a female will then spend the rest of her days hunting for her own sustenance. When an amorous male appears, they often drop to the ground. There, they pretend to be dead and wait for the males to fly away before continuing about their business.
A Fairly Clear Signal from the Female Dragonflies
A researcher revealed his discovery through a study published in the April 24th edition of the journal, Ecology. Rassim Khelifa, a Ph.D. student in Evolutionary Biology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland began his work in the Swiss Alps. He originally intended to study the effects of climate change on the mating patterns of the moorland hawker dragonfly, a common species among the mountain lakes in the region.His goal was to collect the eggs of multiple females and then bring them back to the lab. He planned to test how they hatched under various heat conditions. Khelifa noticed the peculiar behavior during those hours collecting the fresh eggs. He then began documenting it and the female dragonflies.
“It was a byproduct of my research,” Khelifa said.
He directly observed 35 female dragonflies. 27 of them participated feigned their own death, and 21 of those successfully avoided the unwanted male attention. Of those eight that did not play dead, each was eventually captured and mated with by a male. When Khelifa tried to catch the females pretending to be dead, 87% of them got away, so they were not dazed or unaware of their surroundings.This strategy has been noted in other species avoiding predators. For this dragonfly species, multiple matings can harm a female. As such, this “death” strategy may be an important adaptation for both female dragonflies and the species as well.
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