Posts Tagged ‘hamules’

“Bender” on grass

June 22, 2018

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) is well-known for its tendency to perch on gray and tan colored surfaces, including tree trunks. Less well-known is the fact that Gray Petaltail perches wherever it wants, including tall grasses growing in the forested seeps from which the species emerges.

“Bender,” my nickname for a male Gray Petaltail with a malformed abdomen, is shown perched on grass stems in the following photo set.

No. 1 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

The next photo provides a good view of the gentle curve in Bender’s abdomen, as well as his hamules, visible on the ventral side of abdominal segments two and three (S2 and S3).

No. 2 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Like many male odonates, Bender probably perched on the grass in order to make himself available for hook-ups with females of the same species.

No. 3 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Bender aggressively defended the prominent perch against other odonates that intruded upon his territory.

No. 4 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

No flash/flash

Compare/contrast Photo No. 3-4. The batteries in my external flash unit were almost drained completely by the time I shot the photos. As a result, the flash worked sometimes and didn’t work other times. I’m fairly certain the flash didn’t fire for the Photo No. 3, and equally certain it fired for Photo No. 4. Some photographers might contend the no-flash photo is “arty”; I contend Photo No. 4 — the fill-flash version — has better color balance, color saturation, and more detail in the shadows.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Twin-spotted Spiketail (male claspers)

May 17, 2018

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”).

Male members of the Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails), including male Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster maculata), have relatively small cerci (terminal appendages) that can be mistaken for female cerci.

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.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Brown Spiketail dragonfly (male claspers)

May 15, 2018

Brown Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster bilineata) were spotted on two days during May 2018 at Occoquan Regional Park. Both individuals featured in this post are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages and slightly “indented” hind wings.

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”).

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

Male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located below abdominal segments two and three (S2 and S3), as shown in the preceding annotated image. Hamules come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but their function is identical for all species of odonates. Some species of dragonflies and damselflies — such as Ashy Clubtail versus Lancet Clubtail and Southern Spreadwing versus Sweetflag Spreadwing, to name a few — can be differentiated/identified with certainty only by examining the hamules under magnification.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Ophiogomphus incurvatus exuvia

March 26, 2018

Disclaimer

Soon after I began creating illustrated identification guides for odonate exuviae, I shared a pointer to Perithemis tenera exuviae on the Northeast Odonata Facebook group. Ed Lam commented on my post. The operative sentence is as follows.

I don’t expect anyone to identify Perithemis tenera larvae from Walter’s blog post but it gives a novice a better sense of what larval identification is all about and that has value. Source Credit: Ed Lam, Northeast Odonata Facebook group.

I disagree with Ed’s comment, although I let it go at the time in deference to Ed’s considerable expertise. I do expect anyone can use my guides to identify the species of odonate featured in each guide. Otherwise, what’s the point of making the guides? After I read Ed’s comment I tweaked the specific blog post and retooled the template that I use for most guides.

All of that being said, in my opinion it would be challenging at best to identify an exuvia from Ophiogomphus incurvatus to the species level using only the dichotomous key in Dragonflies of North America by Needham et al., the best resource currently available — significant sections of the key are unclear and unreliable. In contrast, Bob Perkins and I know the identity of the specimen because Bob observed the species of adult dragonfly that emerged from the exuvia.

For what it’s worth, this blog post features a fairly complete set of annotated photos of an Ophiogomphus incurvatus exuvia. Perhaps the photo set can be used in combination with the dichotomous key in order to make identification easier for others.

The Backstory

An Appalachian Snaketail dragonfly (Ophiogomphus incurvatus) nymph was collected by Bob Perkins. The nymph was reared in captivity until it emerged on 20 March 2017 and metamorphosed into an adult male. This specimen is the exuvia from the nymph. Appalachian Snaketail is a member of the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

A two-step process was used to attempt to verify the identity 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 Gomphidae (Clubtails).

  • The specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like), as shown in Photo No. 1, 5, and 6.
  • Antennae are club-like (not thin and thread-like, as in  Aeshnidae larvae), as shown in Photo No. 1.

It’s simple and straightforward to recognize this specimen is a clubtail. Expect a bumpy ride beyond this point!

No. 1 | Ophiogomphus incurvatus | exuvia (face-head)

Step 2. Genus and species

The size of specific antennal segments is a significant marker for identifying some species of Ophiogomphus. In this case, the antennae on the specimen will need to be cleaned in order to count segments and measure their dimensions.

No. 2 | Ophiogomphus incurvatus | exuvia (dorsal)

Lateral spines are present on abdominal segments seven through nine (S7-S9). Dorsal hooks appear to be well developed on segments eight and nine (S8, S9); they resemble “dorsal abdominal processes” on most other abdominal segments.

No. 3 | Ophiogomphus incurvatus | exuvia (dorsal-lateral)

The cerci are approximately three-fourths (3/4) as long as the epiproct and paraprocts.

No. 4 | Ophiogomphus incurvatus | exuvia (anal pyramid)

Photo No. 4 and 5 show ventral views of the exuvia.

No. 5 | Ophiogomphus incurvatus | exuvia (ventral)

The vestigial hamules shown in both photos indicate this individual is a male.

After emergence

The next photograph shows the Appalachian Snaketail dragonfly after emergence from one of Bob Perkins‘ holding tanks. Ophiogomphus incurvatus is 40-43 mm in total length (Paulson, 2011).

Image used with permission from Bob Perkins.

This individual is a male, as indicated by its “indented” hind wings, hamules, and terminal appendages.

Image used with permission from Bob Perkins.

Related Resource

The dichotomous key for Ophiogomphus that appears on pp. 261-262 in Dragonflies of North America, Third Edition by Needham et al. was used to attempt to verify the genus and species of the exuvia. Markers that match this specimen are highlighted in boldface green text. Three boldface green asterisks (***) are used to highlight the thread for identification of O. incurvatus. Disclaimers are highlighted in boldface red text.

p. 261

1. Abdomen without lateral spines or dorsal hooks; antennal segment 4 minute, much narrower than segment 3. [howei]
***1’. Lateral spines present on abdominal segments 6 or 7-9; dorsal hooks usually well developed, if vestigial then antennal segment 4 more than 1/2 as wide as segment 3. [2]

2(1’). Antennal segment 4 more than 1/2 as wide as segment 3 (Fig. 319a); dorsal hooks on abdominal segments 2-9 low and blunt, or vestigial. [3]
***2’. Antennal segment 4 minute, much less than 1/2 as wide as segment 3; dorsal hooks normally prominent, usually hook-like, on at least some of abdominal segments 2-9 (sometimes low in O. carolus). [4]

p. 262

4(2’). Lateral spines on abdominal segments 6-9 (Fig. 323d). [5]
***4’. Lateral spines on abdominal segments 7-9 only. [6]

***6(4’). Dorsal hooks on abdominal segments 2-4 in lateral view usually less than 2/3 as high (measured from lowest point at intersegmental margin) as dorsal length of their respective tergites (along sclerotized, granulated cuticle only), in dorsal view with obtuse apices not extending backward beyond posterior border of tergite (Fig. 322a). [7*]
6’. Dorsal hooks on abdominal segments 2-4 in lateral view 2/3 as high, or more, (measured as above) as dorsal length of their respective tergites, in dorsal view with acute apices extending backward beyond posterior border of tergite (not beyond smooth intersegmental membrane; Fig. 322e). [14*]

***7(6). Antennal segment 3 not more than twice as long as wide. [8**]
7’. Antennal segment 3 is 2.3 to 3.0 times as long as wide. [10**]

***8(7). Antennal segment 3 is 1.7 to 1.8 times as long as wide; dorsal abdominal hooks highest and subequal on segments 2 or 3 to 4 or 5. [incurvatus**]
8’. Antennal segment 3 is 1.8 to 2.0 times as long as wide; dorsal abdominal hooks highest and subequal on segments 2 and 3 (Fig. 322a). [9**]


* Interpretation of this couplet in some individual cases may be ambiguous; if in doubt try both choices.
** Separation based on antennal measurements may be difficult in practice. Careful attention to shape of antennal segments (Fig. 319) should also help.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot Photo No. 2, 3, and 5: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tubeCanon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites set for “Slave” mode. Photo No. 1, 4, and 6Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (manual focus only, set for 2x magnification) plus the multiple-flash setup.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate Photo No. 1-6Photo No. 2, 4, 5, and 6 are focus-stacked composite images.

Bob Perkins’ photos were shot using a Canon EOS Rebel T3i camera body and Canon EF-S 60mm macro lens.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Hetaerina americana exuvia

March 18, 2018

An American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americananymph was collected by Bob Perkins on 06 August 2017 along the New River in Grayson County, Virginia USA. The nymph was reared in captivity, albeit briefly, until it emerged on 09 August 2017.

Pattern recognition can be used to tentatively identify damselfly larvae/exuviae to the family level: the shape of the prementum is characteristic for each of the three families of damselflies that occur in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States of America; mnemonics can be used to remember each distinctive shape.

Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies) features a prementum with a shape that looks somewhat similar to Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies). Look for an embedded raindrop shape, located toward the upper-center of the prementum.

Also notice another marker for Calopterygidae: the first antenna segment is equal to or longer than the length of the other six (6) segments added together. (Editor’s Note: Some of the smaller antennae segments are missing. It’s likely those delicate parts broke off during shipping and/or cleaning.)

No. 2 | Hetaerina americana | exuvia (ventral)

Two markers verify the genus and species of this specimen as Hetaerina americana: the labial cleft extends only to the base of the palpal lobes, as shown in Photo No. 1; and the external gills are 8.5 mm to 10 mm long (Daigle, 1991), as shown in Photo No. 2.

Before and after

Photo No. 3 shows a dorsal view of the exuvia before it was cleaned in order to remove unknown fibers covering the body and dirt/debris that obscured the labial cleft in the prementum.

No. 3 | Hetaerina americana | exuvia (dorsal)

Photo No. 1, 2 and 4 show the exuvia after cleaning. The operation appears to have been successful, other than collateral damage to two legs.

No. 4 | Hetaerina americana | exuvia (dorsal)

The next photograph shows the damselfly during emergence from one of Bob Perkins‘ holding tanks. Good timing, Bob!

Image used with permission from Bob Perkins.

The last photo shows the adult American Rubyspot damselfly sometime after emergence. Hetaerina americana is 38-46 mm in total length (Paulson, 2011). This individual is a male, as indicated by its hamules and terminal appendages.

Image used with permission from Bob Perkins.

Related Resource: Florida Damselflies (Zygoptera) – A Species Key to the Aquatic Larval Stages, by Jerrell James Daigle. Technical Series, Volume 11, Number 1, December 1991. State of Florida, Department of Environmental Regulation.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot Photo No. 2, 3 and 4: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tubeCanon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite. Photo No. 1 , 2 and 4: the Canon MT-26 was set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites were set for “Slave” mode. A Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (manual focus only, set for 2x magnification) plus multiple-flash setup was used for Photo No. 1.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate selected images.

Bob Perkins’ photos were shot using a Canon EOS Rebel T3i camera body and Canon EF-S 60mm macro lens.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pairs, in wheel)

January 11, 2018

Several mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted during a photowalk around a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

Both pairs are “in wheel“: the male is on top; the female is on the bottom.

All odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back. Male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located in segments two and three (S2 and S3); female genitalia in segment eight (S8). Dragonflies form the mating wheel in order for their genitalia to connect during copulation.

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

Editor’s Note: Careful readers may be thinking “Hey, wait a minute — you said you spotted several mating pairs, but the post features photos of just two pairs.” Good catch! The photos of two more mating pairs didn’t make the final cut because the focus was slightly soft in all of those photos.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time to mate (Fall 2017)

October 11, 2017

I speculate Blue-faced Meadowhawk is an arboreal species of dragonfly that returns to the ground/water when it’s time to mate.

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted near a drainage ditch alongside a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in wheel“: the male is on top; the female on the bottom. The female is a heteromorph, as indicated by her tan coloration.

All dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back: male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located in segments two and three (S2 and S3); female genitalia in segment eight (S8). Dragonflies form the mating wheel in order for their genitalia to connect during copulation.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly redux (Part 2)

September 21, 2017

The same Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora filosa) was photographed while it perched on grasses located in two shady places along one of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and prominent hamules.

Set 3

A busy background of thigh-high grasses made it challenging to find a pleasing composition.

Set 4

Photo Set 4 is my favorite, in terms of both quantity and quality. The dragonfly is shown perching on a grass stem that is estimated to be more than six feet high.

The next three photos are uncropped, that is, full-size images (4,000 x 3,000 pixels). This individual has a distinctive eye injury to the top of his left eye (facing forward) that enabled me to recognize the same male dragonfly is the subject in all four photo sets.

Did you notice the male Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum) that photo-bombed the preceding image?

The last photo was cropped lightly in order to improve the composition, and Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to remove a distracting element from the lower-right corner of the image.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly redux (Part 1)

September 19, 2017

Several Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora filosa) were spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

The same dragonfly was photographed while it perched in several shady places along one of the trails at the park. In my limited experience, Somatochlora filosa seems to prefer perching on bare tree branches or long stems of wild grass. Part 1 features two photo sets showing Fine-lined Emerald resting on other types of perches; Part 2 will feature two more photo sets showing the dragonfly perching on grasses.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and prominent hamules.

Set 1

The first photograph is a strong contender for my Odonart Portfolio. I like the way the green vegatation complements the dragonfly’s emerald colored eyes. Can anyone identify the type of plant on which the dragonfly is perching?

Post Update: Sincere thanks to Drew Chaney for identifying the green plant shown in the preceding photo. According to Drew, “It’s common evening-primrose, probably Oenothera biennis.”

Set 2

The second set of photos shows the dragonfly perching on a Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seed pod.

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

This individual has a distinctive eye injury to the top of his left eye (facing forward).

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

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to several members of the Capital Naturalist Facebook group for identifying the species of milkweed plant shown in photo Set 2. “Capital Naturalist” is administered by Alonso Abugattas, Natural Resources Manager, Arlington County Parks, Virginia.

Related Resources

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.


%d bloggers like this: