The headache excuse has been around for centuries, humans thinking highly of their cleverness. Meanwhile, in the animal kingdom, female dragonflies have become masters at feigning death just so they can avoid mating. Until recently, researchers knew nothing about this unusual behavior that, according to recent discoveries, is a common practice among the colorful insects.
Aeshna juncea females exhibit this behavior when they don’t want to be forced by a male to mate. The study that documents this “skill” was published on April 24 in the journal Ecology. A zoologist from the University of Zurich, Rassim Khelifa, discovered the peculiar behavior while analyzing how temperature affects the larvae in the Swiss Alps.
While he was conducting his experiment, he observed how male dragonflies were chasing the females. Suddenly, one female crashed to the ground, and the researcher thought it was dead. The insect remained lying on its back until the male dragonfly left. A few seconds after that, it started flying again.
“Upside down is an atypical posture for a dragonﬂy … I expected that the female could be unconscious or even dead after her crash landing, but she surprised me by ﬂying away quickly as I approached,” Khelifa mentioned.
Khelifa was, of course, surprised, and decided to conduct another experiment. He started monitoring the reproductive behavior of female dragonflies to see if all of them exhibit the same actions. Therefore, he continued to observe them for several months.
Faking Death to Avoid One Night Stands
After completing his research, Khelifa found that faking death was quite common among these insects. Even more astonishing, after looking at other dragonfly species, he discovered that such a behavior was only exhibited by the Aeshna juncea. Moreover, he observed that males leave their females after the mating process ends.
In the case of other species, males usually stay with the females after mating, to make sure that they, as well as the eggs, are safe. The role of the males is to protect the females when they lay eggs. In the case the Aeshna juncea, it is precisely the opposite. Therefore, they want to avoid mating by all means, and end up resorting to this kind of extreme behavior.
Image source: Wikipedia