Function of the legs in Odonata

H. Carl Cook
Sun, 30 Jan 2000 10:32:51 -0600

Odonata -

My observations with binoculars on some aerial feeding odonates (e.g. Anax,
Somatochlora) lead me to disagree with Richard's opinion
their mouth structures are not well adapted for catching prey. In feeding on
such small prey as midges they hold the legs folded tightly underneath
during flight- not shaped to form a basket. Likely the more
aerodynamic posture privides increased agility in flight.

Carl Cook

-----Original Message-----
From: Dave McShaffrey <>
To: <>
Date: Saturday, January 29, 2000 4:31 PM
Subject: Function of the legs in Odonata

>Odonata -
>As many of you know a number of us are working on "Dragonflies and
>Damselflies of Ohio", hopefully to be published in a year or so.  I was
>tasked with writing the introductory chapters on natural history.  I have
>been poring over the reviews that several of the other authors sent me as
>part of our internal review process.  One of them took issue with a
>statement I made about the spines on dragonfly legs.  I had used the old
>party line about the spurs forming a basket and thus being useful in
>catching smaller prey. This appears in several places, including the
>entomology text co-authored by Borror, who, one expects, knew a little
>My co-author has suggested that this is another case of the conventional
>wisdom being not as accurate as we might think, and offers that smaller
>are usually taken by the mouth and larger prey are taken with the
>of the legs.  He lists the primary functions of the dragonfly's legs as:
>1. perching
>2. grasping a mate
>3. enabling the adults to emerge from the exuviae
>4. courtship displays (rare)
>5.  holding onto large prey - possibly
>I tend to agree with him on these, but I'm unsure about what to do with the
>"basket hypothesis". Having seen a number of Odonata consuming prey, but
>none actually catching the prey (at least close enough to see what the legs
>were up to) I can't say I have any strong feelings either way.
>Does anyone have any ideas/observations/opinions? We want this book to
>reflect a modern consensus about these creatures, and many of the comments
>that have appeared in this forum over the last few months have already
>influenced the text.  Thanks to everyone who has contributed in the past,
>and thanks in advance to anyone who has ideas on the functions of the legs.
>Dave McShaffrey
>Biology Department
>Marietta College
>Marietta, OH  45750
>(740) 376-4743 (voice)
>(740) 376-4753 (fax)
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