Posts Tagged ‘vestigial hamuli’

Post update: Aeshna umbrosa exuvia

January 8, 2020

Male odonates have two sets of sex organs: primary genitalia located on abdominal segment nine (S9); and secondary genitalia located on abdominal segments two-to-three (S2-3).

Closer examination of some test shots of the following Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) exuvia, photographed on 02 December 2018, showed both sets of vestigial genitalia are clearly visible on the ventral side of this specimen.

Aeshna umbrosa (mating pair)

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). Male and female dragonflies form the mating wheel in order for their genitalia to connect during copulation.

A. umbrosa (in wheel). Photo used with permission from Patrick Boez.

Related Resource: Test shots: Aeshna umbrosa exuvia.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Flip-it Friday

December 27, 2019

An odonate exuvia was collected by Andy Davidson near Richmond, Virginia USA. Andy is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) working on a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

This individual is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers), possibly a species from the genus Celithemis (Pennants). Source Credit: Steve Krotzer, Haysop Hill Photography; and Andy Davidson, VCU.

Dorsal view update

The first photograph is the same photo featured in a recent blog post, with one big difference. I flipped the image digitally so that the exuvia looks more like it’s in its natural resting position on the background. The more I looked at the original image, the more I felt somewhat disoriented. Ah, much better!

Ventral view

Next I flipped the specimen physically to show a ventral view of the exuvia. Look closely at the full-size version of the photo. This individual is probably a male, as indicated by what appear to be vestigial hamules located along the boundary between abdominal segments two and three (S2-3). Remember, all odonates have 10 abdominal segments, numbered from front-to-back. In my opinion, it’s easier to count segments from the posterior- to the anterior end of the body.

The following annotated images of other dragonfly exuviae might help you to recognize the vestigial hamuli on this specimen.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens minus the lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing.

Godox X2TF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode.

  1. Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. Godox TT685F Thinklite Flash for Fujifilm Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot heal and sharpen both images.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Aeshna umbrosa exuvia

December 3, 2018

Bob Perkins collected and reared an unknown species of odonate nymph from a tiny stream in Carroll County, Virginia USA. The larva emerged from one of Bob’s holding tanks overnight on 23-24 November 2018 and metamorphosed into an adult male Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa). Shadow Darner is a member of the Family Aeshnidae (Darners). The following test shots show the exuvia from the odonate nymph.

Test shots of this beautiful specimen were taken using a relatively small aperture of f/16 for greater depth of field. Each photo is a “one-off,” that is, not a composite image. Focus stacks will be created sometime in the near future, after the exuvia is rehydrated and its legs are repositioned  for easier posing.

Lateral-ventral view

The focus point of the first photo is on the right eye. Given the orientation of the specimen, most of the exuvia is acceptably in focus at f/16. For what it’s worth, I really like the composition of this photo!

Notice the specimen has a flat labium (prementum) that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like). That is a characteristic field mark of two families of dragonflies: Family Aeshnidae (Darners); and Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

This individual is a male, as indicated by vestigial hamules that are visible on the ventral side of the specimen.

Dorsal view

The focus point of the next photo is on the head: the head is tack-sharp; the terminal appendages are in soft-focus. Sometimes it’s necessary to create focus-stacked composite images in order to render the subject in focus from head-to-tail and edge-to-edge.

Lateral spines on abdominal segments six to nine (S6-9) indicate this specimen is A. umbrosa.

The focus point of the next photo is on the abdomen, just below the wing pads. Relative to the preceding photo, notice the head is slightly softer in focus while the terminal appendages are slightly sharper in focus.

Related Resource: Post update: Aeshna umbrosa exuvia.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the preceding photographs: 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.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen all three images.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Tachopteryx thoreyi exuviae

November 30, 2018

Two Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) exuviae were collected on 23 May 2018 by Walter Sanford near a forest seep at an undisclosed location in Northern Virginia USA. Gray Petaltail is a member of the Family Petaluridae (Petaltails).

Although both specimens are similar, they aren’t identical. For example, twin rows of hook-like structures are clearly visible on the dorsal side of the abdomen on the lower exuvia, and almost invisible on the upper exuvia. The upper exuvia is dirtier and appears to be more “worn” than the lower one. Notice the “schmutz” on the face of the lower exuvia, probably a piece of leaf litter.

Both individuals might be male, as indicated by vestigial hamules that appear to be visible on the ventral side of the specimens.

Test shots of the specimens were taken using a relatively small aperture of f/16 for greater depth of field. Each photo is a “one-off,” that is, not a composite image. Focus stacks will be created sometime in the near future, after the exuviae are rehydrated, cleaned, and posed for better composition.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot both of the preceding photographs: 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.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen both images.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Erythemis simplicicollis exuvia

November 16, 2018

An Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) exuvia was received from Andy Davidson, a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University.

This individual is a male, as indicated by the vestigial hamules visible on the ventral side of the exuvia, abdominal segments two and three (S2-S3).

Food for Thought

This exuvia is one of three “cast skins” from odonate nymphs that were collected in the field and reared in the laboratory as part of a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.” Since all three nymphs were collected from the James River rock pools, I assume they lived in essentially the same habitat. I wonder why the E. simplicollis exuvia is so much darker in color than either the P. flavescens or P. longipennis exuviae.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot both of the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing. Actually, back-button focus was used to autofocus the image and adjusted manually as necessary. That’s also a Fujifilm thing.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control a pair of off-camera Godox TT685 Thinklite TTL Flashes (TT685F and TT685C) set for radio slave mode. Each flash was fitted with a snap-on plastic diffuser.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen both images.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Epitheca princeps exuvia

September 6, 2018

An odonate exuvia was collected by Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, on 07 June 2018 at Otter Lake in Amherst County, Virginia USA.

A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the specimen.

  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 jagged crenulations on its labium, so it’s not a spiketail. The crenulations for Corduliidae and Libellulidae 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, as shown in Image No. 4. [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 with relatively smooth crenulations, no horn on its face-head, and the cerci are more than half as long as the paraprocts, confirming that the specimen is a member of Family Corduliidae (Emeralds).

No. 1Epitheca princeps | exuvia (face-head)

Step 2. Genus and species

Characters from two dichotomous keys were used to identify the genus and species: Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps). See Epitheca princeps exuvia, another of my illustrated guides to identification of odonate exuviae, for a detailed explanation of the decision tree used to identify the genus and species of this specimen.

No. 2 | Epitheca princeps | exuvia (dorsal)

This individual is a male, as indicated by the vestigial hamuli visible on the ventral side of abdominal segments two and three (S2-3).

No. 3Epitheca princeps | exuvia (ventral)

Notice the cerci are at least half as long as the paraprocts, as shown in Image No. 4.

No. 4Epitheca princeps | exuvia (posterior abdomen)

Image No. 5 shows a dorsal-lateral view of the mid-dorsal hooks.

No. 5Epitheca princeps | exuvia (dorsal-lateral)

Look-alike species

I really wanted this specimen to be Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa). I think exuviae from D. transversa and E. princeps are similar in appearance — an opinion not shared by at least one expert on identification of odonate exuviae.

Two characters proved to be the deal-breaker that forced me to abandon D. tranversa in favor of E. princeps. 1) The specimen does not have a horn on its face-head. 2) This specimen is only 25 mm long (2.5 cm); D. transversa larvae/exuviae are 30 mm long (3.0 cm), according to Dragonflies of North America, Needham, James G., et al.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot Image No. 1-5: 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.

Image No. 1-5 are focus-stacked composite images created and annotated using Adobe Photoshop CC 2017: Image No. 1 (7 photos); Image No. 2 (22 photos); Image No. 3 (19 photos); Image No. 4 (10 photos); Image No. 5 (20 photos).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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