According to fossil records, Dragonflies (from the Odonata order) have been around for over 250 million years. Dragonflies evolved before even the dinosaurs, and are most likely the oldest insect and possibly the first animal ever to fly. The size of their wingspan — now less than 7 inches — is the only physical change that may have evolved over the years; earlier fossils show that dragonflies may have had up to 27-inch wingspans.
Dragonflies spend most of their time in or around water. This is where they lay their eggs, which hatch after three to five weeks into nymphs called naiads. Naiads do not have wings, but they have the same slender body and six legs that the adult dragonflies have. For a long period of time, naiads live in mud or attached to aquatic plants. When they are fully grown, they come out from the water, shed their skin, and start the half-hour long cycle of expanding their wings.
After they fully become a dragonfly, they only live up to six weeks. In that time, they have to find a mate. Most dragonflies mate on the wing and actually spend considerable time flying while doing so — sometimes up to several days!
Fun Dragonfly Facts
- The largest dragonfly recorded by fossil records had a wing span of almost two and a half feet.
- There are about 5,000 different species of dragonflies, 450 of which live in the United States.
- Dragonflies are one of the fastest insects, flying up to 30 miles per hour.
- Dragonflies can see a view of 360 degrees because their eyes have about 30,000 lenses.
- A dragonfly can live from six months to six years as a naiad, but only about six weeks with wings.
Iowa State University
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