Function of the legs in Odonata

Mon, 31 Jan 2000 10:12:17 -0600

Odonata -

Hi all,

I recall seeing some high speed films, I think by Andrea Worthington at the WDA meeting in New York, that showed the legs of dragonflies such as Pachydiplax flashing up to the mouth to stuff prey into the mouth at just the instant of capture, then returning to the normal folded flight position.  In other words, it looked like the tarsi of all 3 pairs of legs were being used as accessory mouthparts to prevent prey from coming out of the open mouth before the mandibles and maxillae could close on it.  Thus it seems that small prey is caught in the mouth with assistance from the feet.  My interpretation is that the leg spurs are not used to capture small prey, but that they are certainly useful for containing the struggles of large prey. 

>From my own observations, I believe that dragonflies do NOT catch small prey in a leg basket, then transfer it to their mouth, but rather that they catch it in their (presumably wide open) mouth.  Apparently the legs flashing up to the mouth as shown in the films above was too quick for me to see with unaided eyes.


Sidney W. Dunkle
Biology Dept.
Collin County Community College
Spring Creek Campus
Plano, TX 75074, USA
972-881-5989, FAX 972-881-5923

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