Posts Tagged ‘malformed’

Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (females)

December 6, 2017

Male and female Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphurus vastus) are nearly identical in appearance except for their terminal appendages: females have two terminal appendages (cerci); males have three (claspers). Also notice the subtle difference in the shape of their hind wings: female hind wings are rounded; male hind wings are “indented.”

Several female Cobra Clubtails were photographed during the annual mass emergence along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The first female, shown above, has a malformed wing.

Notice part of an insect leg on the wooden beam, underneath the female’s abdomen. Is it a leftover from a late-morning snack?

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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American Rubyspot damselfly (female)

July 27, 2017

An American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) was spotted during a photowalk along Bull Run in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. As far as I know, this is the first official record for American Rubyspot at this location.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and ovipositor.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (female)

Notice one of the damselfly’s wings is either malformed or injured. She was able to fly, although it seemed to be a struggle.

The Backstory

The damselfly landed on my thigh a few minutes before the preceding photograph was taken. It was like she was pleading with me to help her, although I admit I tend to project my thoughts onto the odonates I photograph. I would have tried to unfold her wing, but I never had an opportunity. Two teenage girls and a bear-sized dog startled me! (I never heard/saw them approaching. The girls told me their dog is a Long Hair German Shepherd.) When I flinched the damselfly flew to the perch shown above, just beyond my reach.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Sanddragon (male)

July 23, 2017

A Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) was spotted along Dogue Creek at Wickford Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

Some people imagine the yellow markings along the abdomen look like small burning candles.

All of the photographs in this set are uncropped. Knee-high rubber boots enabled me to photowalk some segments the stream, allowing me to get close to the subject.

This guy was a cooperative model; he allowed me to photograph him from many viewpoints.

The water level was relatively high after recent heavy rainfall. As a result, there were fewer sandy “beaches” than usual along the stream. I speculate the dragonfly may have been more cooperative because he wasn’t going to abandon one of only a few available preferred places to perch.

It’s possible the right front leg (facing forward) is either malformed or injured. Although the male flew several short patrols, landing in different places, the leg was never fully extended.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Spine-crowned Clubtail (terminal appendages)

May 10, 2017

A male and female Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly (Hylogomphus abbreviatus) were spotted recently in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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 Spine-crowned Clubtail is essentially a wide plate with two prongs.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

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

The hind wings of male clubtail dragonflies are “indented” near the body, as shown in the preceding photograph. In contrast, the hind wings of female clubtails are rounded (shown below). Also notice the right hind wing of the male is slightly malformed.

Female

Female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function. The abdomen of female Spine-crowned Clubtails is noticeably thicker than males of the same species.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (female)

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

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly (male)

May 8, 2017

A Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly (Hylogomphus abbreviatus) was spotted recently in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Spine-crowned Clubtail is relatively uncommon in Northern Virginia, and a new species of dragonfly for my life list.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and indented hind wings. Notice the right hind wing is slightly malformed.

Spine-crowned Clubtail versus Cobra Clubtail

Spined-crowned Clubtail looks similar to Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus). Two field markers can be used to differentiate the species.

Spine-crowned Clubtail features large yellow spots on the sides of abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9); Cobra Clubtail has a small yellow spot on the side of abdominal segment eight (S8) and a large yellow spot on the side of abdominal segment nine (S9), as shown below (see inset photo).

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

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

The face of Spine-crowned Clubtail is yellow and unmarked; the face of Cobra Clubtail is yellow with horizontal black markings (see inset photo).

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

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

More photos, Spine-crowned Clubtail

This guy was a cooperative model as I followed him to several perches on rocks along a large stream.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

Editor’s Notes: Special thanks to Mike Boatwright, curator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for help in verifying my tentative field identification. As far as I know, this is the first official record for Hylogomphus abbreviatus in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Late-stage emergent baskettail dragonfly

April 18, 2017

Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) was spotted at Painted Turtle Pond during a photowalk around Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a late-stage emergent teneral female.

I photographed the process of emergence from the first sighting to the time when the teneral dragonfly flew away: I shot 23 photos in approximately 16 minutes; time is compressed by showcasing six (6) select photos taken at major milestones during the event.

The following photo is the first image from a time-series documenting the 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 00:16:08 is the total elapsed time.

13 APR 2016 | 11:38:41 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:00:00

Notice the drop of fluid at the tip of the abdomen. Emerging dragonflies pump fluid into their wings, causing the wings to expand. Next, the same fluid is withdrawn from the wings and used to expand the abdomen. Excess fluid is expelled afterward.

13 APR 2016 | 11:40:48 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:02:07

The next photo shows the first time the wings opened.

13 APR 2016 | 11:48:55 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:10:14

Then the wings closed again and remained closed for a while.

13 APR 2016 | 11:51:02 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:12:21

The wings reopened a few minutes later. Notice that several wings are malformed slightly.

13 APR 2016 | 11:54:14 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:15:33

Finally, the wings open up, and very soon the teneral adult flies away. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 468). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The teneral female dragonfly flew away immediately after the last photo in the time-series.

13 APR 2016 | 11:54:46 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:16:08

This individual is a female, as indicated by her cerci (superior appendages) and thick abdomen. Common Baskettail females have shorter cerci and a thicker abdomen than males of the same species.

Exuviae (in situ)

Several dragonfly exuviae were spotted at Painted Turtle Pond. The exuviae were identified using a dichotomous key for dragonfly larvae; they are cast skins from Common Baskettail.

13 APR 2017 | OBNWR | Common Baskettail (exuvia)

These exuviae are not the one from which the teneral female featured in this post emerged.

13 APR 2017 | OBNWR | Common Baskettail (exuvia)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Malformed Cobra Clubtail dragonflies

February 21, 2017

I took 255 photographs during my first photowalk along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA, including lots of photos of Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphurus vastus). I noticed several malformed individuals when I reviewed the entire photo set recently (in search of look-alike species of clubtail dragonflies). None of the malformations prevented the dragonflies from functioning normally.

The first Cobra Clubtail is a male with a slightly crimped right hind wing, where a small part of the wing failed to fully inflate during emergence.

The next individual is a female. Notice that abdominal segment seven (S7) was crimped during emergence. (All dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.)

The last individual is a male. Notice his left front leg is missing. The male is either malformed or he lost the leg due to injury.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) spotted at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male; its left front leg is missing. Two dark face bars are field markers that can be used to differentiate Cobra Clubtail from other similar looking species of clubtails.

16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male, missing leg)

Two thick dark face bars are field markers that can be used to differentiate Cobra Clubtail from other similar looking species in the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails): Midland Clubtail (Gomphus fraternus) has no face bars; Splendid Clubtail (Gomphus lineatifrons) has thin dark face bars.

Tech Tips:

Shutter Priority mode was used for the first two photographs. Aperture Priority mode was used for the last photo, in order to increase the depth of field. As you can see, the depth of field at f/7.1 was insufficient for the tip of the dragonfly abdomen to be in focus. Typically, I wouldn’t publish the last photo, but I made an exception because it is the only photo I took that shows the face bars clearly.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male, malformed)

February 15, 2017

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). This individual is a male, as indicated by his coloration and terminal appendages.

The male’s abdomen is slightly malformed. The malformation is more noticeable in the preceding photo and easy to overlook in the following photo.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

January 12, 2017

A late-season Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus) was spotted during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

The left hindwing looks like it might be malformed.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonflies

August 17, 2016

Another female and male Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) were spotted during a follow-up photowalk along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park.

Female and male Black-shouldered Spinyleg are somewhat similar in appearance. Terminal appendages, the shape of their hind wings, and the relative size of their club are good field markers to differentiate specimens by gender.

Female

The first individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages. Female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function.

A Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

08 AUG 2016 | Riverbend Park | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

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

The preceding dorsal view of the dragonfly shows its hind wings are rounded near the body, a good field marker for female clubtail dragonflies. In contrast, the hind wings of male clubtails are “indented.” Also notice the female “club” is slightly smaller than the male club, as shown in the following photos.

A Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

08 AUG 2016 | Riverbend Park | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

A Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

08 AUG 2016 | Riverbend Park | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

A Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

08 AUG 2016 | Riverbend Park | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

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”).

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

Although the preceding photo seems to show four terminal appendages, do not be misled! The epiproct for Black-shouldered Spinyleg is essentially a wide plate with two prongs.

Notice the male’s middle leg (on the right side, facing forward) is shorter than either its front- or hind leg. I’m not sure whether the middle leg is malformed, or the result of an injury. Whatever the cause, it might explain why the dragonfly was especially skittish.

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

  • Genus Dromogomphus | Dromogomphus spinosus | Black-shouldered Spinyleg | male | top view
  • Genus Dromogomphus | Dromogomphus spinosus | Black-shouldered Spinyleg | male | side view

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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