Precious cargo

Odonates are aquatic insects. They spend most of their life as larvae that live in water; this stage of their life cycle can last from a few months to a few years. Finally, they emerge from the water and metamorphose into adults in order to reproduce; their offspring return to the water and the cycle begins again.

Careful and/or lucky observers will notice exuviae (sing. exuvia), also known as either “cast skins” or “shed skins,” left behind when odonate larvae emerge. Exuviae are fragile little works of natural art that are challenging at best to ship from one location to another.

The preceding photo shows a small plastic vial containing three odonate exuviae, received from Andy Davidson. All three exuviae are members of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers). From left-to-right, the following specimens can be seen inside the vial: Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens); Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis); Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).

Andy packed the exuviae carefully inside a 15 ml centrifuge tube with a screw on/off cap; pieces of crumpled bubble wrap were used to separate the specimens inside the tube. A pair of tweezers was used to remove the bubble wrap. All three exuviae appear to be in perfect condition.

Editor’s Notes

Andy Davidson is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia USA. Andy works with Dr. James Vonesh, his faculty advisor, and a team of researchers studying the ecology of James River rock pools. Andy’s research project is entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Sincere thanks to Andy for kindly sharing several exuviae saved from laboratory-reared odonate nymphs — I’m looking forward to creating new annotated identification guides for the specimens!

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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5 Responses to “Precious cargo”

  1. Kelly Stettner Says:

    This is great! Thanks for sharing the tip on shipping these uber-delicate items.

  2. Test shots: Pantala flavescens exuvia | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] Resources: See also Precious cargo, a blog post by Walter Sanford. (Hey, that’s me!) Test shots of the Eastern Pondhawk […]

  3. Test shots: Erythemis simplicicollis exuvia | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] Precious cargo, a blog post by Walter Sanford. […]

  4. Test shots: Pachydiplax longipennis exuvia | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] Precious cargo, a blog post by Walter Sanford. […]

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