VCSU Macro-Invertabrate Lab
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Order Odonata - The Dragonflies and Damselflies
Darner larvae Broadwinged Damselfly larvae Spreadwinged Damselfly larvae
The Odonata includes the Dragonflies and damselflies.

General Life cycle - The Odonata undergo incomplete metamorphosis, which means that there is a distinct larval phase, usually called a nymph or a naiad, and a distinct adult phase with no intermediate pupal phase. The nymph phase can be rather long in some groups, lasting up to 3 to 4 years. When the nymph is ready to transform into the adult it will crawl out of the water and anchor itself on a suitable substrate. It will then undergo ecdysis, the process of splitting open the nymphal exoskeleton, and the adult will emerge. The adult will need some time to "pump up" it's wings and prepare for flight. Adults can live from several weeks to several months.

Identification - The larvae are aquatic predators which can be recognized by their extendable mouth. This specialized mouth apparatus, called a prehensile labium, is used to catch prey. The larvae seem to be visual predators, attacking most any moving object that is of the appropriate size. The adults are strong flying aerial predators that are usually found around water. There are two suborders of the Odonata: the Zygoptera which are usually the smaller and more dainty damselflies, and the Anisoptera which are usually the larger and more stout dragonflies. Distinguishing the two is relatively easy in both larvae and adults.

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