Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (male)

The following dragonfly was spotted on 10 June 2015 during a photowalk alongside the wetlands at Huntley Meadows Park. One look at those widely-separated eyes, …

A Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

10 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Unicorn Clubtail (male)

those distinctively-shaped yellow terminal appendages, …

A Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

10 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Unicorn Clubtail (male)

plus the profile of this dragonfly perching horizontally on the ground, …

A Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

10 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Unicorn Clubtail (male)

and you know this is a male Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes). OK, Lilypad Clubtail (Arigomphus furcifer) looks similar to Unicorn Clubtail, but my location in Northern Virginia is far outside the range map for Lilypad Clubtail.

The Backstory: How the Unicorn Clubtail got its name

All members of the Clubtail Family of dragonflies, including Unicorn Clubtail, have widely-separated eyes; the space between the eyes, on top of the head, is called the occiput.

occiput: posteriormost area on top of head, behind vertex and ocelli. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Location 11671). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Look closely at the full-size version of the following annotated image. Notice there is a small “horn” located in the center of the Unicorn Clubtail’s occiput, hence the first part of its common name. Also notice the tip of its abdomen is slightly club-shaped  — now you know the rest of the story.

A Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

10 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Unicorn Clubtail (male)

The occiput and “unicorn horn” are clearly visible in the following photopraphs of a captive Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly.

P1200042

Photo used with permission from Molly Jacobson.

See more photos by Molly Jacobson at BugGuide.com.

P1200043

Photo used with permission from Molly Jacobson.

Editor’s Note: Collecting specimens is prohibited at Huntley Meadows Park.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (male)”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    Great shots of one of the coolest-looking dragonflies that we have in our area. I enjoyed the detailed information about the source of the dragonfly’s common name, although I have to say that I have never gotten a sharp enough shot of a Unicorn Clubtail from an angle that showed the details of the “horn” as well as Molly’s images.

  2. Green Heron (eating a fish) | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] I was hunting Unicorn Clubtail dragonflies (Arigomphus villosipes). [See related post: Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (male).] Green Herons can quite skittish. The bird may not have noticed me as I was sitting quietly on […]

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