Posts Tagged ‘ovipositor’

Twin-spotted versus Brown Spiketails

February 8, 2022

Four species of genus Cordulegaster are found in the Commonwealth of Virginia: Brown Spiketail (C. bilineata); Tiger Spiketail (C. erronea); Twin-spotted Spiketail (C. maculata); and Arrowhead Spiketail (C. obliqua).

According to the excellent datasets for the Commonwealth of Virginia by Dr. Steve Roble, Staff Zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, the adult flight periods for spiketail dragonflies are as follows.

MAR 16 – JUL 10 = Twin-spotted

MAR 28 – AUG 08 = Brown

MAY 11 – JUL 17 = Arrowhead

MAY 28 – AUG 22 = Tiger

As you can see, there’s a lot of overlap between the flight periods for Twin-spotted Spiketail and Brown Spiketail. Also notice the overlap between the flight periods for Arrowhead Spiketail and Tiger Spiketail.

I think we can agree the distinctive arrowhead-shaped yellow markings on the abdomen of Arrowhead Spiketail (shown below) are unmistakeable for any other species of spiketail, including Tiger Spiketail.

07 JUL 2014 | Fairfax County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (male)

In the opinion of the author it’s more likely a dark-colored Brown Spiketail, such as the one shown below, might be misidentified as a Twin-spotted Spiketail.

02 MAY 2019 | Fairfax County, VA | Brown Spiketail (male)

Differentiating Twin-spotted versus Brown

Twin-spotted and Brown Spiketail dragonflies can be differentiated by looking closely at the yellow markings on abdominal segments one through three (S1-S3).

07 MAY 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Twin-spotted Spiketail (male)

The pattern of yellow markings on S1-S3 is simpler for Twin-spotted than Brown, as you can see by looking at the full-size versions of these two photos, shown above and below.

11 MAY 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Brown Spiketail (male)

Female Twin-spotted versus Brown

Female Twin-spotted Spiketails, such as the one shown below, have a much longer subgenital plate (ovipositor) than female Brown Spiketails.

Photo used with written permission from Mike Boatwright.

The subgenital plate for the following female Brown Spiketail is barely visible.

09 MAY 2013 | Fairfax County, VA | Brown Spiketail (female)

It isn’t a lot easier to see the subgenital plate in a close-up view of the same individual shown above.

09 MAY 2013 | Fairfax County, VA | Brown Spiketail (female)

Coach’s Corner

Thanks to Mike Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for coaching me up on how to differentiate Twin-spotted Spiketail from Brown Spiketail, including both males and females.

Look for yellow markings on the side of abdominal segments one through three (S1-S3): green arrows show the lack of yellow markings on S1-S3 for Twin-spotted; red arrows show yellow markings on the sides of S1-S3 for Brown.

Set 1

Twin-spotted Spiketail | male (dorsal view)

Photo used with written permission from Mike Boatwright.

Brown Spiketail | male (dorsal view)

Photo used with written permission from Mike Boatwright.

Set 2

Twin-spotted Spiketail | male (dorso-lateral view)

Photo used with written permission from Mike Boatwright.

Brown Spiketail | male (dorso-lateral view)

Photo used with written permission from Mike Boatwright.

What are the take-aways?

Remember the odonate hunter’s credo: Shoot first (photographs, that is); ask questions later. (Repeat it like a mantra.) Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot gradually.

Please don’t waste precious time in the field! You can study the photos when you return home in order to identify the subject(s) you shot as either Twin-spotted Spiketail or Brown Spiketail.

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Twin-spotted Spiketail (terminal appendages)

January 25, 2022

Male

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.

07 MAY 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Twin-spotted Spiketail (male)

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.

07 MAY 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Twin-spotted Spiketail (male)

Female

As far as I know I have never seen a female Twin-Spotted Spiketail. (I have seen several individuals that I was unable to photograph.) No problem. Mike Boatwright kindly allowed me to annotate a couple of his photographs.

Photo used with written permission from Mike Boatwright.

These individuals are female, as indicated by their rounded hind wings, terminal appendages, and prominent subgenital plate (ovipositor) at the tip of their abdomen.

Photo used with written permission from Mike Boatwright.

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Arrowhead Spiketail (terminal appendages)

January 21, 2022

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster obliqua) were spotted along small streams at undisclosed locations in Fairfax County and Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Male and female Arrowhead Spiketails are similar in appearance. They can be differentiated based upon several field marks.

Male

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

07 JUL 2014 | Fairfax County | Arrowhead Spiketail (male)

Arrowhead male and female cerci are similar in appearance, and it can be challenging to see the epiproct clearly from some viewpoints. When in doubt whether an individual is male or female, look for indentations at the base of the hind wings of males.

07 JUL 2014 | Fairfax County | Arrowhead Spiketail (male)

Female

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings, terminal appendages, and prominent subgenital plate (ovipositor) at the tip of her abdomen.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. Wm. County | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Although Arrowhead male and female cerci are similar in appearance, there is no mistaking the subgenital plate of female spiketails! It’s easy to see why “Spiketails” is the common name for Family Cordulegastridae.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. Wm. County | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

So the take-away is simple: If you see a subgenital plate then the individual is definitely female; if not, then it’s probably a male.

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

HMK at HMP

October 26, 2020

14 OCT 2020 | HMP | Handsome Meadow Katydid (female)

The preceding photograph shows a female Handsome Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum pulchellum) perched on the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Blue eyes are a good field mark for identifying Handsome Meadow Katydids. Notice the long, curved, reddish, scimitar-shaped structure extending from the posterior end of the abdomen. It’s an ovipositor that female katydids …

… use to insert eggs into hiding places … which can be in crevices on plants or even inside plant tissues [endophytic oviposition]. Source Credit: Matt Pelikan, BugGuide group on Facebook.

I like the way the reddish-pink American tearthumb (Persicaria sagittata) flowers in the background complement the color palette of the katydid.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)

October 16, 2020

Michael Powell spotted a Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis) perched on greenbriar vine in a wetland area alongside the gravel trail we were following out of Huntley Meadows Park, located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her coloration and terminal appendages. Notice the tip of her abdomen is enlarged because of her reproductive anatomy, including an ovipositor.

Female Slender Spreadwing can be confused with female Southern Spreadwing damselflies. Several key field marks are used to differentiate the two species.

Blue shoulder stripes, slender abdomen, the ratio of abdominal segments seven and nine (S7 and S9), and whitish wing tips all point to Slender Spreadwing. S7 is more than twice the length of S9 in Slender, covered in Ed Lam’s book. Source Credit: Dr. Michael Moore, a professor (retired) in the Department of Biological Sciences at University of Delaware and odonate expert extraordinaire. Dr. Moore’s new Web site is a treasure trove of helpful resources.

Related Resource: Damselflies of the Northeast, by Ed Lam (author and illustrator).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Tramea carolina exuvia (ventral)

January 20, 2020

Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea carolinaexuvia was collected by Andy Davidson near Richmond, Virginia USA. Carolina Saddlebags is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers).

This individual might be a female, as indicated by what appears to be a small rudimentary ovipositor located along the margin between abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9).

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Hagenius brevistylus exuvia (ventral)

January 6, 2020

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

This specimen is a Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) exuvia. Dragonhunter is a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

Dorsal view update

I’ve made the same mistake twice recently: When in doubt, the “model” should face the camera! In my opinion, the following updated photo looks better than the version that shows the model facing away from the camera (published in my last blog post).

Ventral view

This individual is a female, as indicated by the rudimentary ovipositor located along the boundary between abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9).

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The first two photos were taken using the same MYN Field Studio setup described in detail in my last blog post.

The last photo was taken by swapping the Godox TT685F fill flash for my Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite. The Canon flash was set for a power ratio of 1/32.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

June 21, 2019

An Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) was spotted in a sunny clearing along a small-to-medium size forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings, terminal appendages, and prominent ovipositor at the tip of her abdomen.

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Did you recognize the interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) in the background of every photo in this gallery?

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

The Backstory

Mike Powell and I stopped to use GPS to get a fix on our position at the end of a long photowalk that included lots of bushwhacking. We stopped because the small stream we were exploring was getting wider and deeper the farther we walked downstream, and we decided the stream habitat had changed to be less suitable for Sable Clubtail (S. rogersi), our target species.

The place where we stopped is a sunny meadow near the confluence of a tiny side stream with the larger stream we were following. As Mike was testing a few GPS apps for his Android cell phone, I noticed a big dragonfly as it flew down the tiny stream, turned left past us, and landed in the sunny meadow. I found the dragonfly after a few minutes of searching the area where I saw it land. I was hoping for a Tiger Spiketail (Cordulegaster erronea) but nonetheless delighted to see a female Arrowhead Spiketail — our second record of this species for the year at the remote location!

Related Resource: Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (female)

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (female)

May 27, 2019

An Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) was spotted in a sunny clearing along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings, terminal appendages, and prominent ovipositor at the tip of her abdomen.

[Females in the Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) feature a] …pointed and spikelike (thus the group name) ovipositor, really a “pseudo-ovipositor” formed from the prolonged subgenital plate. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7005-7006). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Although the pattern of arrowhead-shaped markings visible on the dorsal side of her abdomen is unmistakeable, notice that the thorax features two stripes. The latter field mark can be used to differentiate spiketails from cruisers that have one stripe on their thorax.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Mike Powell and I have photowalked together so many times that we are comfortable working cooperatively to shoot a subject. I wanted to get a shot of the face of the Arrowhead Spiketail but was concerned it would spook the dragonfly if I were to get “up in her grill.” So I waited until Mike had taken all of the photographs he wanted before approaching the dragonlfy for her “beauty shot.” As it turns out, the model was extraordinarily tolerant and didn’t fly away until sometime after Mike and I moved on to the next site.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Notice the interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) that appears in the background of every photo of the Arrowhead Spiketail.

Location, location, location.

Some species of odonates are habitat generalists, meaning they can be found almost anywhere there is water.

Habitat-specific odonates can be found only in specific habitats — for these species, finding them is all about location, location, location. Arrowhead Spiketail dragonflies are habitat-specialists.

Habitat: Small swift streams and soft-bottomed muddy seeps in forest, also streams reduced to series of small pools during drier weather. As in some other spiketails, skunk cabbage often present. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7081-7082). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) were observed growing in a seep located between a dirt trail and the small stream where the Arrowhead Spiketail was spotted — the perfect place for several species of habitat-specific odonates!

The last photo shows the clearing along a small forest stream where several species of dragonflies were spotted, including the Arrowhead Spiketail featured in this blog post. The stream is no more than a few feet wide and only a few inches deep in most places.

The small stream where several species of dragonflies were spotted.

The backstory

Telephoto lenses can cause a type of distortion called “foreshortening,” as seen in the preceding photo. Mike Powell and I were standing at the edge of the stream bank trying to decide whether we wanted to go down the short, steep slope to explore the clearing when we spotted a large UFO, that is, an “Unidentified Flying Odonate.” Mike and I took “record shots” of the dragonfly; looking at the LCD of our cameras, we identified the UFO as a Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi).

Mike and I had seen a Gray Petaltail at another location (near the beginning of our photowalk), but we were unable to photograph it. So down the bank we went! As it turns out, there were at least two Grays in the meadow: a female; and a male. As Mike was photographing one of the Gray Petaltails he noticed another “large dragonfly.” As we slowly moved closer to the new unknown dragonfly, I quickly realized Mike had spotted an Arrowhead Clubtail. Great catch, Mike!

Please see Female Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly for Mike’s take on our shared experience.

Uncommon

Arrowhead Spiketail is classified as an uncommon species of odonate. The following map shows all official records for Arrowhead Clubtail (C. obliqua) in the United States of America.

DSA Distribution Viewer | Arrowhead Spiketail

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2019. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: May 27, 2019).

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

Our spotting of Arrowhead Spiketail is a new DSA record for Prince William County, Virginia.

Adult flight period

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, Staff Zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, the adult flight period for C. obliqua is 11 May to 17 July. The species is classified as uncommon. Its habitat is “small streams.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for C. obliqua seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter — more likely around one month. For example, according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, the adult flight period for Arrowhead is 28 May to 27 June (peaks in June).

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

 

Cordulegaster sp. larva (ventral view)

February 22, 2019

Bob Perkins collected and reared an odonate larva/nymph from the Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails). The larva died before it metamorphosed into an adult.

This post features a focus-stacked composite image that shows a ventral view of the preserved larva; a composite image showing the dorsal view will be published in my next blog post.

Cordulegaster sp. larva (female) | ventral view

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rudimentary ovipositor that can be seen on the ventral side of the specimen along the boundary between abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9). Do you see it?

Related Resources

Tech Tips

Nine (9) photos were used to create the focus stack. A single focus point was positioned over select anatomical features; photos were taken at each point of interest.

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the photographs for the focus-stacked composite image, shown above: 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); and Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and several external flashes set for “Slave” mode including Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites and a Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

Auto power-off was disabled for the camera and all external flash units.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the focus-stacked composite image, as well as spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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