Taiwanese researchers have discovered that the larvae of some domestic dragonflies live on land instead of in water, in the first-ever study of its type in Taiwan.
The study, published as part of the 2021 volume of the International Journal of Odonatology, was conducted after a series of unusual larvae of the species Cephalaeschna risi were discovered three years ago in Yilan County.
Immature dragonflies, also known as instars, are tiny predators that hunt tadpoles, mosquito larvae and other small prey in rivers and creeks, said Hu Fang-shuo (胡芳碩), the study’s first author and a student of entomology at National Chung Hsing University.
Photo courtesy of National Chung Hsing University via CNA
While land-dwelling instars are known to exist, they are extremely rare and none had been documented in Taiwan before, he said.
Hu discovered the Taiwanese instars by accident while looking for rove beetles under rock near the bank of a creek, he said.
“The thought of finding dragonfly instars on land had never occurred to me, and I thought I was seeing things because my eyes were tired,” Hu said.
Further research has shown that smaller instars of the species moved about among lichens, while larger ones would hide at night by suspending themselves from the underside of leaves, he said.
When bred in laboratory conditions, the instars usually hunted on the ground and rarely entered the water, which he said was peculiar as the adult dragonflies preferred to live near waterfalls.
The Cephalaeschna risi are a little-understood species that inhabit medium-to-low-altitude old-growth forests in Taiwan, he said, adding that the paper was the first thorough study of its external morphology.
The study’s methodology would have implications for efforts to identify instars, an important component in researching the aquatic environment, he said.
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