Swift River Cruiser (emergent female)

A Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) was spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a late-stage emergent teneral female, as indicated by her terminal appendages.

Many of the major milestones during the miraculous process of emergence occurred before I spotted the dragonfly. I photographed the process from the first sighting to the time when I had to stop (see The Backstory, below): I shot 102 photos in approximately one hour; time is compressed by showcasing five (5) select photos from the first-to-last sighting.

The following photo is the first image from a time-series documenting the late-stage emergence of the teneral female. Elapsed time is expressed in hh:mm:ss format, e.g., 00:00:00 is the time when I spotted the emergent teneral female, and 01:01:15 is the total elapsed time.

27 MAY 2017 | 09:09:13 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:00:00

The wings seem to be fully expanded (as shown in the preceding photo), evidenced by the fact that it appears some of the greenish hemolymph has been pumped out of the wings and into the abdomen.

27 MAY 2017 | 09:51:08 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:41:55

Notice the wings are mostly clear in the following photo, in contrast with the first photo in this gallery. Next the abdomen expanded slowly until it was longer than the wings, as shown in the last photo.

27 MAY 2017 | 09:52:33 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:43:20

As time passed, more of the adult coloration began to appear. Notice the large yellow spot on the dorsal side of abdominal segment seven (S7).

27 MAY 2017 | 09:57:39 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:48:26

The last photo shows the dragonfly waiting for the wings and body to harden before its first flight.

27 MAY 2017 | 10:10:28 am EDT | Elapsed time: 01:01:15

The Backstory

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. in order to be at Riverbend Park when the gates open at 7 a.m. I had to attend a training session in order to be a volunteer collector of dragonfly exuviae for a research program sponsored by the park. The class started at 10 a.m., but I wanted to look around and shoot photos before the class.

I found almost nothing photo-worthy until soon after 9:00 a.m. when I spotted the emergent Swift River Cruiser dragonfly. The emergence was well underway at that point; I had to go to class before the wings spread and the teneral dragonfly flew away.

The emergence site was in a high-traffic location, so the daughter of a woman in the class guarded/watched the teneral until it flew away safely. After class, I collected the exuvia. I will shoot a set of studio macro photographs of the exuvia before returning the specimen to the park.

Swift River Cruiser is a new species of dragonfly for my life list.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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13 Responses to “Swift River Cruiser (emergent female)”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    Wow! Your photos and words do a great job of documenting what you so accurately described as “the miraculous process of emergence.” I especially like how you are able to guide us through each image so that we can understand what we are seeing.

  2. Pete Hillman Says:

    Fabulous discovery, Walter, and a marvellous series of images! The magic of nature revealing itself before your very eyes.

  3. ardalionanguiano Says:

    “Some participants had never seen an exuvia or a dragonfly metamorphosing from larva to adult.” I especially like how you are able to guide us through each image so that we can understand what we are seeing.

  4. toddbschlueter Says:

    I like the tweaks, Walter, and am still blown away by the amazing transformation of dragonflies. Some participants had never seen an exuvia or a dragonfly metamorphosing from larva to adult.

  5. arsenios Says:

    Fabulous discovery, Walter, and a marvellous series of images! Some participants had never seen an exuvia or a dragonfly metamorphosing from larva to adult.

  6. nicholasjlennox Says:

    Your photos and words do a great job of documenting what you so accurately described as “the miraculous process of emergence. Wow!

  7. Harold's Says:

    Some participants had never seen an exuvia or a dragonfly metamorphosing from larva to adult. Your photos and words do a great job of documenting what you so accurately described as “the miraculous process of emergence.

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