Posts Tagged ‘cerci’

Great Spreadwing (practice oviposition)

October 15, 2017

This gallery — named “practice oviposition” (egg-laying) — features a six-photo time series of a female Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis).

Female Great Spreadwing damselflies, like all female odonates, have two cerci (sing. cercus), superior appendages that have little or no function. Also notice two styli (sing. stylus), structures that serve as sensors (like “curb feelers“) in egg positioning during oviposition.

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The female uses her styli to guide the ovipositor into position, as shown in the next two photos.

In this case, I saw no evidence that the ovipositor actually penetrated the tree twig. I think this was a practice run in preparation for the real thing, as the title of this blog post says.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Should I stay or should I go?

October 7, 2017

Two Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) were observed flying back-and-forth over a field alongside a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA — typical feeding behavior for Common Green Darners. Sometimes they would land briefly, perching in shady hidey-holes in the thick vegetation covering the ground. I followed one of the two to a couple of perches.

This individual was very skittish! I was able to shoot one photo at the first perch…

03 OCT 2017 | HMP | Common Green Darner (female)

…and another photo at the last perch. The dragonfly flew toward the tree canopy when I tried to move a step closer.

03 OCT 2017 | HMP | Common Green Darner (female)

It’s relatively easy to identify this type of dragonfly to the species level.

The easiest field mark for identification of a Common Green Darner is that “bull’s eye” on the back of the head. No other [odonate] has it. Source Credit: John Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Wildlife Sanctuary.

On the other hand, it can be more challenging to identify the gender.

Several field markers can be used to identify the gender of this dragonfly. The cerci (sing. cercus) of female Common Green Darners look like almonds, both in color and shape. Two more field markers verify this specimen is female.

Note the brown stripe extending onto abdominal segment 2. Segment 2 [S2] is typically all pale on males. Also [viewing the second photo at full resolution and zooming in on the head] the rear margin of the occiput is not straight. Females have blunt dark colored “teeth” back there which makes the margin look wavy. Source Credit: Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast, Northeast Odonata Facebook group.

Common Green Darner is one of at least five major species of dragonflies known to be migratory in North America. It’s possible the two Common Green Darners that I observed stopped at Huntley Meadows Park in order to “refuel” before continuing their southward migration.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Mocha Emerald terminal appendages (female)

September 29, 2017

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis) was spotted by Andrew Rapp in Henrico County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

Terminal appendages

All female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function. The hind wings of female Mocha Emerald dragonflies are rounded.

21 JUL 2017 | Henrico County, VA | Mocha Emerald (female)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

21 JUL 2017 | Henrico County, VA | Mocha Emerald (female)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Notice the subgenital plate shown in the preceding photo.

subgenital plate: plate below S8 that holds bunches of eggs when enlarged; variable enough in shape to be of value in identification. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 11723-11724). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

“S8” refers to abdominal segment eight. Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

Oviposition (egg-laying)

The following Apple iPhone 3GS “raw” video clip shows a female Mocha Emerald dragonfly laying eggs by the process of oviposition. The process typically lasts a few seconds to a few minutes. This individual was spotted on 16 July 2011 during a photowalk through the “Wildlife Sanctuary,” one of seven small parks in the community of Hollin Hills, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (female, ovipositing) [Ver. 2] (0:23)

Related Resource: Mocha Emerald terminal appendages (male).

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to Andrew Rapp for permission to use his still photographs.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Black Saddlebags (terminal appendages)

September 15, 2017

Male and female Black Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea lacerata) are somewhat similar in appearance. Terminal appendages can be used to identify gender.

Female

A female Black Saddlebags was spotted along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Black Saddlebags (female)

Female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Black Saddlebags (female)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Male

Male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”); and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

A male Black Saddlebags was spotted in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

12 SEP 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park | Black Saddlebags (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (males)

September 13, 2017

Three Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora filosa) were spotted during a long photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. All three individuals are males, as indicated by their terminal appendages and prominent hamules.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Source Credit: Sir Isaac Newton.

Sincere thanks to Jim Waggener, Wildlife Survey Coordinator for The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, as well as other members of Jim’s survey group for sharing information that enabled me to find this rare to uncommon species of dragonfly. The group has surveyed four sites in Northern Virginia regularly for many years, including Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

No. 1

Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies seem to prefer perching on bare tree branches or long stems of wild grass, typically at chest- or head-height although not exclusively. For example, this guy was perched about waist-high on a cluster of fallen tree branches.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Fine-lined Emerald seems to prefer perching in sun rather than shade, unlike Mocha Emerald (Somatochlora linearis) — another species from the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds) found in Northern Virginia that prefers shady places.

The following ventral-lateral shot shows the lines on the thorax for which this species is named.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

No. 2

The male shown in the next photo is perched on a long grass stem, about chest-high. He posed for two shots, patrolled back-and-forth a few times, and then disappeared.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

No. 3

The last male was the most cooperative model. The first photo was taken at a distance of approximately six feet.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

The next photo was taken a step-or-so closer…

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

And after a few side steps, I was able to take a good lateral shot.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

The Backstory

This might be one of those stories in which the take-away is “persistence pays dividends.”

I made two trips to Occoquan Bay NWR during Fall 2016 when Fine-lined Emerald was my target species. On 21 September 2016, I spotted one or more dragonflies (species unknown) patrolling the treetops along one of the trails at OBNWR. I didn’t see any signs of Fine-lined Emerald on 25 October 2016, consistent with records for late-date maintained by Kevin Munroe (04 October for Northern Virginia) and Dr. Steven Roble (15 October for the Commonwealth of Virginia).

In retrospect, I realized I started searching too late in the year during 2016 so I started earlier in 2017. My first trip to OBNWR was on 30 August 2017; it turned out to be fruitless. I hit the jackpot on 10 September 2017! Fine-lined Emerald is a new species for my life list of dragonflies.

Rare to Uncommon

A distribution map of official records for Fine-lined Emerald helps to illustrate its classification as a rare to uncommon species of odonate.

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2017. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: September 14, 2017).

Key: blue dots = Dot Map Project; green dots = Accepted records; yellow dots = Pending records.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Springtime Darner (terminal appendages)

September 11, 2017

Male and female Springtime Darner dragonflies (Basiaeschna janata) are colored similarly sometimes. Terminal appendages can be used to identify gender.

Male

Male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”); and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

A male Springtime Darner was spotted along a mid-size rocky stream located at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Female

Female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function.

Female Springtime Darners are polymorphic: the spots on their abdomen are either blue (andromorphic) or green (heteromorphic); this female — spotted at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park (HMP) — is a blue andromorph.

15 APR 2016 | HMP | Springtime Darner (female, blue andromorph)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Russet-tipped Clubtail (terminal appendages)

August 14, 2017

Male Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies (Stylurus plagiatus) have a larger, more colorful club than females of the same species, their hind wings are “indented,” and their terminal appendages are shaped differently. Compare and contrast the appearance of males and females by looking at the following annotated images.

Male

Male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”); and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Notice the epiproct is a wide “plate” that spans both cerci, as shown in the full-size version of the preceding annotated image.

Female

All female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function. The hind wings of female clubtails are rounded.

21 AUG 2015 | Powhatan County, VA | Russet-tipped Clubtail (female)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The female Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly shown in the preceding image was spotted along the James River by my good friend Michael Boatwright, founder of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group. Sincere thanks to Mike for permission to use his photographs (background and inset).

Related Resources: Digital Dragonflies, presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Stylurus | Stylurus plagiatus | Russet-tipped Clubtail | male | top view
  • Genus Stylurus | Stylurus plagiatus | Russet-tipped Clubtail | female | top view
  • Genus Stylurus | Stylurus plagiatus | Russet-tipped Clubtail | female | side view

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Ringtail dragonfly (female)

July 21, 2017

An Eastern Ringtail dragonfly (Erpetogomphus designatus) was spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and rounded hind wings.

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

I saw tens of male Eastern Ringtail, but only one female.

The preceding photograph is my favorite in the set. I like the way the neutral colors in the pavement complement the coloration of the female.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Big Boy”

July 19, 2017

Several Eastern Ringtail dragonflies (Erpetogomphus designatus) were spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. These individuals are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

All of the photos in this set were taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash.

I nicknamed the Fujinon 100-400mm lens “Big Boy” because it’s so big and heavy. I use a Sunpak 6700M monopod and Vanguard SBH 100 ball head to support the lens.

Zoom in on the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice the terminal appendages are spread apart, revealing a clear look at both the cerci and hook-shaped epiproct.

Related Resource: You complete me – a blog post published on 19 February 2016 in which I shared my first impressions of the Fujinon 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Mocha Emerald dragonfly claspers

July 13, 2017

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis) was spotted along a small creek at a remote location in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and hamules.

All male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”) and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

09 JUL 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | Mocha Emerald (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

09 JUL 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | Mocha Emerald (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located below abdominal segments two and three (S2 and S3), as shown in the following annotated image. Hamules come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but their function is identical for all species of odonates.

hamules: paired structures that project from genital pocket under second segment and hold female abdomen in place during copulation Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 11618-116198). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

09 JUL 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | Mocha Emerald (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Related Resource: Mocha Emerald terminal appendages (female).

Technique Hint: Did you notice that the “focus” of each photo (not to be confused with the focus point) is shown against a lighter background? That’s no accident — I composed each shot that way. As a result, the terminal appendages (cerci and epiproct) are much easier to see in the first two photos than the last shot, in which the composition highlights the hamules.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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