Full Circle

A mating pair of Common Green Darners (Anax junius) was spotted at a bioswale near the head-end of the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP).

The bioswale was designed to filter the runoff which comes from the parking lot, removing heavy metals, salt, sand, etc. from the runoff before conveyance to Dogue Creek. It is supposed to slowly filter the rain water in 48-72 hours, to clean and purify the water before entering the creek. Source Credit: David M. Lawlor, Natural Resource Manager, HMP.

The pair is in tandem (a form of guarding behavior): the male (upper-right) guides the female (lower-left) to places where she can lay eggs in vegetation (endophytic oviposition).

A mating pair of Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is in tandem as the female lays eggs by the process of oviposition.

05 AUG 2015 | HMP | Common Green Darner (mating pair, in tandem)

Did you notice the odonate exuvia located on the same reed as the Common Green Darners? Although it’s usually impossible to identify an exuvia from a photograph like the one shown above, I consulted the experts of the Northeast Odonata Facebook group.

I can’t identify the exuvia to species, but I’m pretty confident about the family — Libellulidae, a skimmer. Possibly Blue Dasher, but I’m mostly guessing there. Source Credit: Christopher E. Hill, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Coastal Carolina University.

A mating pair of Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is in tandem as the female lays eggs by the process of oviposition.

05 AUG 2015 | HMP | Common Green Darner (mating pair, in tandem)

Eggs may hatch after a few days, or embryonic development may take a month or more. In some species, the eggs overwinter and hatch the following spring. Each egg hatches into a very tiny prolarva that looks like a primitive insect form, quite different from the larva that will succeed it. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 407-409). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

As odonate larvae grow and outgrow their skin, they molt, on average 12 times. The duration of this stage of life can vary from a month to several years, depending upon both species and climate. The last molt, called “emergence,” is the metamorphosis from larva to adult; the “cast skin” that is left behind is an exuvia (pl. exuviae).

The juxtaposition of the exuvia and mating pair in the first photo is a metaphor for the circle of life, come full circle: eggs; prolarvae; larvae; emergence/adult males and females; mating pairs; males guide females to egg-laying sites.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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4 Responses to “Full Circle”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    The first shot is simply amazing–I like the circle of life metaphor a lot.

  2. waltersanford Says:

    Thanks, Mike! Dragonflies spend most of their life in water. Here’s another way of thinking about the juxtaposition of the exuvia and adult dragonflies as a metaphor for the circle of life: One adult emerged from the water, while other individuals (in the form of eggs) are returning to water.

  3. Peopoll’s Choice Awards – Top 10 Photos of 2015 | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] 05 AUG 2015 | HMP | Common Green Darner (mating pair, in tandem) Editor’s Note: This photo received the most votes for overall best photo. […]

  4. Identifying dragonfly larvae to family | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] Full Circle […]

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