Female dragonflies will literally fake their own deaths to avoid males
Sometimes, the world of the birds and the bees can feel like too much. But the next time you feel like you're being defeatist for deleting your dating apps, you might want to bear the humble dragonfly in mind, as it turns out female dragonflies literally fake their own deaths to avoid males.
The unusual behavior was first noticed by Rassim Khelifa from the University of Zurich, Switzerland. As per New Scientist, he made the observation while studying the behavior of the moorland hawker dragonfly (Aeshna juncea) in the Swiss Alps.
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Apparently, while watching the animal, a female dive-crashed into the ground after being pursued by a male. In 10 years of studying the insects, Khelifa had never previously witnessed this behavior and said, "I was surprised."
After landing on the ground, the female lay motionless until her would-be suitor flew off.
Unlike some other species of dragonfly, female moorland hawker dragonflies are at risk of harassment because they aren't protected by males while guarding their eggs.
All of these eggs have the potential to be fertilized by just one sexual encounter, with further activity having the potential to damage the females' reproductive tracts.
During this time, Khelifa observed the insects retreating to dense vegetation near ponds.
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Khelifa saw 27 out of 31 females fake their own deaths in a bid to avoid males, with 21 of these attempts being successful.
However, this practice is not without risk for the insects because it involves flying at high speed, according to Adolfo Cordero-Rivera at the University of Vigo in Spain, and tends to only happen in areas densely populated by dragonflies.
"Females may only behave in this way if male harassment is intense," he said.