Zoology

The Mysterious Migration of the Dragonfly



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Millions of dragonflies migrate every year, just like many other insects, birds and animals; however, the mysterious aspect of such annual adventures lies in the length of such an endeavor. It was commonly known that the Monarch butterfly held the title of covering the longest migration of any insect, yet recent observations and tracking systems placed on dragonflies have proven otherwise.

They fly well over thousands of kilometers over sea, from southern India to Africa. This huge feat makes dragonflies the first known insects to migrate over open ocean water. What’s more is that these little insects migrate much the same way as birds do. Thereby these little dragonflies overtake the famed annual migration of the Monarch butterfly, whose distance range is half of that of the dragonfly, as the Monarchs only fly across the Americas.

Many Maldivian residents are astonished each year as they see millions of dragonflies arriving on the islands. Their appearance is one that amazes, as the nearest mainland to the 1200 islands (that make up the Maldives) is between 500 and 1000 kilometers away in the south of India. Even this land isn’t suitable for the insects, as they are full of coral cays that don't have freshwater, which the mass migrating insects need to complete their growth cycles.

Their adventure of epic proportions doesn’t stop there, however, as they have been recorded to fly over the western Indian Ocean all the way to east Africa.

The distance they fly as they migrate from (somewhere in) India over the sea to the Maldives is such an amazing feat for these little agile insects, and how they do it remains a mystery, as they often have to fly against dominating winds. A question which biologists and researchers ask is: what do they do in the Maldives?

Biologist Charles Anderson, who has been recording, observing and studying dragonfly migrations, and has since published his findings and details of their long adventures in the Journal of Tropical Ecology, says that he thinks dragonflies can accomplish and survive this mind-blowing journey by making the most of the winds and gliding with them like kites and feeding on other small insects.

He goes on to state that various migratory birds like cuckoos, falcons and nightjars follow the same migration route as the dragonflies, from the south of India to wintering grounds in Africa. This information leads to the conclusion that the birds feed on the dragonflies.

The Monarch butterfly is often regarded as having the longest migration of all insects as they fly over 7000 km from Mexico to southern Canada. However, recent evidence, observations and recordings show that dragonflies are the new record breakers. These little nimble insects fly the same route as birds, offering themselves as food. They cover astonishing distances and fly through prevalent winds. The exact way, how and why they accomplish such a great undertaking remain to be a mystery.

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More about this author: Matilda Willows

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