WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY – ENCHANTED FOREST PARK, FL
This dragonfly, believed to be a Blue Corporal Dragonfly, was captured at my local park, Enchanted Forest Park, located in North Miami, Florida on NE135th Street just west of Biscayne Blvd. The camera gear used for this dragonfly photograph is a Nikon D90 with a Nikkor 60mm 2.8 lens attached.
A dragonfly is a double winged insect belonging to the order Odonata, the suborder Epiprocta or, in the strict sense, the infraorder Anisoptera (from Greek ανισος anisos, “uneven” + πτερος pteros, “wings”, due the hindwing being broader than the forewing). It is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, and an elongated body. Dragonflies are similar to damselflies, but the adults can be differentiated by the fact that the wings of most dragonflies are held away from, and perpendicular to, the body when at rest. Dragonflies possess six legs (like any other insect), but most of them cannot walk well. Dragonflies are some of the fastest insects in the world.
Dragonflies are valuable predators that eat mosquitoes, and other small insects like flies, bees, ants, wasps, and very rarely butterflies. They are usually found around marshes, lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands because their larvae, known as “nymphs”, are aquatic. Some 5680 different species of dragonflies are known in the world today.
The order Odonata contains the dragonflies and damselflies and is one of the most popular insect groups. Odonates are popular with both the amateur and professional because they are large, colorful, easily observable and have exceptionally charismatic behaviors. In recent years dragonflies in particular have been popular with birders as many dragonflies rival birds in wingspan, color, gregariousness, and predictability. As a result of their popularity with the public, they have become the focus of many conservation efforts in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Odonata was until recently composed of three suborders: Anisoptera, commonly known as dragonflies; Zygoptera, commonly known as damselflies; and Anisozyoptera, as the name denotes, a morphological composite of the previous two suborders. However, the suborder Anisozygoptera has been abandoned, as current research shows that Anisozygoptera is not a natural group, and is paraphyletic. Thus, the group has been combined with the suborder Anisoptera, which does form a natural group in a new suborder called Epiprocta. To facilitate the discussion of North American odonates it is useful to use the names Zygoptera and Anisoptera when discussing differences between the damselflies and dragonflies, as there are no extant Anisozygoptera in North America.
Dragonflies make up the more specious of the two suborders and are much more easily observed than their dainty relatives, the damselflies. They have large eyes that take up nearly the entire head surface. They also have a very robust body structure to support a massive musculature that propels the large broad wings of dragonflies. Dragonflies are unmatched as fliers and have a very agile, deliberate flight. Males are often territorial, defending oviposition sites from other males. Odonates are found on every continent except for Antarctica. In particular, the majority of the families that comprise Anisoptera are broadly distributed throughout the world.
Florida is home to more than a 150 species of six families of dragonflies: Aeshnidae, Cordulegastridae, Corduliidae, Gomphidae, Libellulidae, and Petaluridae. They can be seen near any body of water or running stream, often sitting in sunspots breaking through the forest canopy along a river or pond, or patrolling the waters edge. Some species can be found in open fields far away from water while searching for prey or while migrating.