Posts Tagged ‘exuvia’

Sable Clubtail dragonfly (male, No. 2)

July 10, 2020

A Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was spotted by Michael Powell during a photowalk at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

Look at the blade of grass on which the Sable is perched. Notice the “leftovers” from an afternoon snack eaten by the dragonfly before the photo was taken.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (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”). The epiproct for Sable Clubtail is essentially a wide plate with two prongs.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

The spiky green grass shown below is probably shallow sedge (Carex lurida) according to Drew Chaney, a.k.a., “Plant Man Drew.”

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Field Observations

All of the photos in the preceding gallery show male No. 2 perched on vegetation overhanging a small stream, enabling him to both hunt/feed and wait for an opportunity to mate with a female.

Natural History: Males perch on sunlit vegetation overhanging stream or on flat rocks in shade at head of riffle, fly up into trees when disturbed. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 6102-6103). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

In my experience, Sable Clubtails — both male and female — also perch on ground cover vegetation in sunny clearings near small streams. For example, see my recent blog post featuring male No. 1.

Sable does in fact fly up into trees when their “flight” response is triggered by overzealous photographers; they have been observed perched in trees as high as 20 feet above the ground. Be patient — usually they return to the ground soon afterward.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Sable Clubtail dragonfly (male, No. 1)

June 26, 2020

After a two-year hiatus since I spotted my first Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) during June 2018, it was a pleasure see an old friend again!

The first photo is the “record shot” for this individual, that is, “get a shot, any shot.” It is literally the first shot I took as soon as I spotted the Sable male. As you can see, he was looking in my direction so I was unable to sneak up on him. That proved to be problematic.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

I tried to move slowly into position for a lateral view of the dragonfly.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

The last photo is almost as far as I moved before Mr. Sable flew away — five shots and it was game over, man!

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Later the same day I  was fortunate to photograph a more cooperative male that will be featured in a follow-up post.

Rare to Uncommon

Sable Clubtail has a limited range and is classified as a rare to uncommon species of odonate. The following map shows all official records for Sable Clubtail in the United States of America.

DSA Distribution Viewer | Sable Clubtail

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2018. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: June 11, 2018).

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

As you would expect, there are few official records for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and fewer records for Northern Virginia.

The Backstory

A short segment of a small stream that flows through a park in Northern Virginia seems to provide ideal habitat for Sable. By the end of Summer 2018, the stream had been degraded significantly by siltation as a result of runoff from dirt that was dumped uphill from the stream.

The following year, the stream channel was almost completely choked by vegetation that I assume flourished in the nutrient-rich sediment that had flowed into the stream. Net result: One and only one Sable Clubtail dragonfly was observed by several spotters who visited the stream site during 2019.

That’s the bad news. The good news is I saw at least three Sable Clubtails when I visited the stream site on Saturday, 13 June 2020. That’s not as many individuals as I saw in 2018, but the species seems to have rebounded a little from the damage done to its habitat.

As Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” Let’s hope!

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Green Darner dragonfly (external female reproductive anatomy)

June 5, 2020

For some species of odonate exuviae, sex is indicated by a form of remnant reproductive anatomy. These external structures don’t look exactly the same for all species of dragonflies and damselflies, but their function is identical.

As far as I know, this is true for all species in the Family Aeshnidae (Darners) such as Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius).

The following photograph shows a ventral view of a female Common Green Darner dragonfly. Notice the external reproductive anatomical structure on abdominal segment nine (S9) is virtually identical to the remnant anatomical structure on S9 of the exuvia, shown above.

Original photo used with permission from Louisa C. Craven.

The Backstory

My dear friend Louisa Craven discovered the lifeless adult dragonfly while on vacation with her family in Nags Head, North Carolina USA. Louisa is an accomplished wildlife photographer who developed an interest in odonates as a result of many photowalks with me.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Macromiidae larvae/exuviae are horny

May 15, 2020

A prominent horn on the face is a key field mark for larvae/exuviae in the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers), as shown in the following photograph of a Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia.

The base of the triangular horn is located above the labium (face mask), between the long, thin antennae.

The specimen was collected, with permission from park staff, on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Tech Tips

The subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The specimen was posed on its dorsal side, so the camera was focused on the face-head-ventral view of the exuvia. The image was rotated 180° during post-processing.

My vintage 2009 Apple iMac desktop computer is too old to support drivers for importing RAF files from my Fujifilm X-T3 mirrorless digital camera into either Apple Aperture or Adobe Lightroom.

The work-around is to use a free application from Fujifilm that converts RAF files to TIFF files, which can be opened and edited with Aperture and Lightroom. Problem is I’m a big procrastinator and haven’t learned how to use the file converter application, so I simply edited one of the JPGs straight from the camera.

For the most part, the finished image looks fairly good although the eyes are blown out a little to a lot. JPG files have less dynamic range than RAF files so I was unable to recover the blown highlights.

Hmmm, it might be time to buy a new desktop computer!

Post Updates

I finally got around to figuring out how to use the free Fujifilm application to convert RAF files to TIFFs. See my follow-up blog post entitled “RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0” for step-by-step instructions.

10 photos (converted from RAF to TIFF), including the one-off featured in this blog post, were used to create a focus-stacked composite image of the specimen that is a little closer to what I had in mind when I set up the photo shoot.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Hylogomphus adelphus exuvia

April 29, 2020

An Anisoptera exuvia was collected by Freda van den Broek on 10 June 2019 along the St. Croix River in Polk County, Wisconsin USA.

This specimen is definitely a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), probably Mustached Clubtail (Hylogomphus adelphus).

10 JUN 2019 | Polk County, WI | Anisoptera exuvia (face-head-dorsal)

Related Resources

Tech Tips

This subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. This photo is a “one-off,” that is, not a composite image.

Eight (8) photos of the specimen were taken using an aperture of f/16; in-camera focus peaking was used to highlight select areas in each photo. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 will be used to create a focus-stacked composite image of the exuvia.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Too dark or too light?

April 27, 2020

The following Anisoptera exuvia — collected by Freda van den Broek on 10 June 2019 along the Red Cedar River in Barron County, Wisconsin USA — is definitely a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), possibly Rusty Snaketail (Ophiogomphus rupinsulensis).

Dorsal-lateral view

Nine (9) photos of the specimen were taken using an aperture of f/16; in-camera focus peaking was used to highlight select areas in each photo. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the focus-stacked composite image shown below.

10 JUN 2019 | Barron County, WI | Anisoptera exuvia (dorsallateral)

When I previewed the RAW files used to create the preceding composite image, I thought most of the files look too dark.

So I did a do-over using 15 photos, resulting in a new version of the composite that is perfectly in focus but a little too light. Compare/contrast the two composite images and you should notice it’s easier to see the mid-dorsal hooks along the abdomen in the first image. The primary purpose for the images is to illustrate those field marks, therefore I think the first (darker) image is better.

10 JUN 2019 | Barron County, WI | Anisoptera exuvia (dorsallateral)

Face-head-dorsal view

Five (5) photos of the specimen were taken using an aperture of f/16; in-camera focus peaking was used to highlight select areas in each photo. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the focus-stacked composite image shown below.

10 JUN 2019 | Barron County, WI | Anisoptera exuvia (face-head-dorsal)

My first impression of the version shown above is it’s too dark, and I second-guessed myself for not shooting more photos for the focus stack.

I created a new focus-stacked composite image using a little more light and 14 photos. When I examined the RAW files used to create the new composite image (shown below), I thought most of the files still look too dark. (But I was wrong.)

10 JUN 2019 | Barron County, WI | Anisoptera exuvia (face-head-dorsal)

So I created a third version using much more light and 24 photos. Although it’s debatable which image looks best, the first- and second images show a few key field marks of the antennae better than the third image.

It turns out the antennae are one indicator this specimen is from the genus Ophiogomphus (Snaketails), so the first two (darker) images are the winners once again.

10 JUN 2019 | Barron County, WI | Anisoptera exuvia (face-head-dorsal)

For what it’s worth, the second of three images is my favorite as indicated by the fact that the image is cropped so there’s room for annotations.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Clubtail exuvia (dorsal-lateral view)

April 24, 2020

The following Anisoptera exuvia — collected by Freda van den Broek on 10 June 2019 along the Red Cedar River in Barron County, Wisconsin USA — is definitely a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), possibly Rusty Snaketail (Ophiogomphus rupinsulensis).

10 JUN 2019 | Barron County, WI | Anisoptera exuvia (dorsallateral)

Notice the exuvia has little stubby mid-dorsal hooks along the length of its abdomen, and lateral spines on abdominal segments seven through nine (S7-S9).

Tech Tips

This subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

15 photos of the specimen were taken using an aperture of f/16; in-camera focus peaking was used to highlight select areas in each photo. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the focus-stacked composite image shown above.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Clubtail exuvia (ventral view)

April 22, 2020

An Anisoptera exuvia was collected by Freda van den Broek on 10 June 2019 along the Red Cedar River in Barron County, Wisconsin USA.

This specimen is definitely a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), possibly Rusty Snaketail (Ophiogomphus rupinsulensis).

10 JUN 2019 | Barron County, WI | Anisoptera exuvia (ventral)

Notice the exuvia has a flat labium (prementum). There are lateral spines located on abdominal segments seven through nine (S7-S9).

Tech Tips

This subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

Seven (7) photos of the specimen were taken using an aperture of f/16; in-camera focus peaking was used to highlight select areas in each photo. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the focus-stacked composite image shown above.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Neurocordulia yamaskanensis exuvia

April 13, 2020

A Stygian Shadowdragon dragonfly (Neurocordulia yamaskanensis) exuvia was collected by Freda van den Broek on 10 June 2019 along the St. Croix River in Interstate Park, Polk County, Wisconsin USA.

A two-step process was used to verify the genus and species of the exuvia.

  1. Determine the family.
  2. Determine the genus and species.

Step 1. Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06). Here’s the decision tree used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds).

  • The specimen has a mask-like labium (prementum) that covers the face, as shown in Image No. 1, characteristic of four families of odonates: Cordulegastridae (Spiketails); Corduliidae (Emeralds); Libellulidae (Skimmers); and Macromiidae (Cruisers).
  • There is no horn on the face-head, characteristic of Macromiidae, so it’s not a cruiser.
  • Cordulegastridae has angular, jagged crenulations on its labium, so it’s not a spiketail. The crenulations for Corduliidae and Libellulidae can look similar.
  • Look at the anal pyramid to differentiate Corduliidae and Libellulidae: It’s probably Corduliidae if the cerci are at least half as long as the paraprocts. [Editor’s Note: It’s probably Libellulidae if the cerci are less than half the length of the paraprocts.]

In summary, the exuvia has a mask-like labium, and no horn on its face-head. The deeply-scalloped crenulations along the margins of the palpal lobes are a characteristic field mark for Genus Neurocordulia (Shadowdragons) in the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds), according to Kevin Hemeon, member of the “Odonate Larvae and Exuviae” Facebook group.

Although the anal pyramid isn’t shown clearly in any of the photos in this field guide, careful examination of photos of the teneral adult that emerged from the exuvia (see The Backstory, below) confirmed the dragonfly is a Stygian Shadowdragon. Stygian is the only species of Neurocordulia (Shadowdragons) within range of Wisconsin.

A face-head view of the exuvia is shown in Image No. 1, magnified approximately two and one-half times life size (~2.5x). Notice the mask-like labium that covers the face of the exuvia, including deeply-scalloped crenulations with bundles of bristles (setae) located along the margins of the palpal lobes.

No. 1 | Neurocordulia yamaskanensis | exuvia (face-head)

Step 2. Genus and species

Dichotomous keys from Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz, were used to verify the genus and species of the exuvia. Field marks that match this specimen are highlighted in boldface green text.

Key to the Genera of the Family Corduliidae, p. 28.

1a. Pair of small tubercles on top of head; Lateral lobe of labium with 4 or 5 setae (except sometimes 6 or 7 in Neurocordulia). (2)

2a. Strong lateral spines of abdominal segment 8 very divergent and as strong as parallel spines of [S]9. (Neurocordulia)

Alternate Key to the Genera of the Family Corduliidae, p. 29.

1a. Dorsal hooks present and well developed on some of the abdominal segments. (2)

2a. Lateral spines present on segment 8. (3)

3a. Crenulations on distal margin of labial palpi nearly semicircular or even more deeply cut; Lateral spines on segment 8 divergent. (Neurocordulia)

Key to the Species of the Genus Neurocordulia, p. 31.

1b. Lateral spines of 9 about 30 to 50 percent of the length of segment 9, not extending beyond the tips of the caudal appendages; Dorsal hooks of segments 7 to 9 reduced to scarcely more than a short ridge; Length 22 – 24.5 mm. (yamaskanensis)

The following annotated focus-stacked composite images illustrate key field marks described in Soltesz’s dichotomous keys.

Notice the specimen has stubby mid-dorsal hooks along the length of its abdomen, as shown in Image No. 2.

Lateral spines are present on abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-S9): the lateral spines on S8 are divergent; the ones on S9 are parallel.

The exuvia is ~2.4 cm (~0.95 in) in length — the longest shadowdragon larva/exuvia in the genus Neurocordulia. Notice the lateral spines on abdominal segment nine (S9) don’t extend beyond the tips of the caudal appendages (terminal appendages), as shown below.

The Backstory

The following narrative was provided by Freda van den Broeck.

On the last morning of the Wisconsin Dragonfly Society Annual Meeting weekend — Sunday, June 10th 2019 — I made my way to the boat landing in Interstate Park, St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin USA.

The previous morning I’d photographed Mustached Clubtail emerging there (with Alon Coppens). We also saw several teneral Rapids Clubtails. One didn’t have to look hard to find exuviae — they were most easily seen on the rocks, just a couple of feet above the water line. I was really hoping to find a Snaketail emerging, but had no such luck.

Photo of St. Croix river used with permission from Freda van den Broek.

Just as I was about to head back to the car, I spotted a teneral, that had crawled up the rock face higher than I would have expected. At that point, I thought it was “just another baskettail” — we’d seen many of them on Friday afternoon and Saturday. But it was pretty and shiny, so I had to take a few pictures, even though I was late for breakfast. (It was around 8:20 am.)

It was several days later before I realized that it wasn’t a baskettail, but a Shadowdragon, and that a few of the exuviae I’d collected there were Stygian Shadowdragons. Source Credit: Freda van den Broek.

Photo used with permission from Freda van den Broek.

Tenerals are usually tough to identify, but you’ll notice in both photos that the [small yellow] spot on [side of] the thorax is clearly visible. Source Credit: Freda van den Broek.

Photo used with permission from Freda van den Broek.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – N. yamaskanensis exuvia (face-head)

April 10, 2020

The following annotated focus-stacked composite image shows a Stygian Shadowdragon dragonfly (Neurocordulia yamaskanensis) exuvia collected by Freda van den Broek on 10 June 2019 along the St. Croix River in Interstate Park, Polk County, Wisconsin USA.

10 JUN 2019 | Polk County, WI | Stygian Shadowdragon (exuvia)

Notice the unusual shape of the crenulations between the palpal lobes of its mask-like labium. Is this field mark unique to N. yamaskanensis or common to all species of the genus Neurocordulia (Shadowdragons)? Enquiring minds want to know!

Tech Tips

Laowa 25mm Ultra Macro lens, set for 2.5x magnification, and Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSPLR was used to photograph the subject against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) following the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

24 photos were used to create the composite image, including 23 photos taken using an aperture of f/5.6 and one photo taken at f/16.

If you look closely at the full-size version of the image, then you will notice some areas that indicate the final image is a few layers short of a perfect focus stack. But hey, not bad for a new lens and a manual focus rail that I used for the first time!

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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