From ‘Sorry, I have a boyfriend‘ to ‘I’m not interested in men,’ women often go to greater lengths, coming up with elaborate excuses to avoid the unwanted advances of men. But when it comes to dodging unsolicited suitors, it seems the dragonflies take things a step further.
A recent study has revealed that female dragonflies drop out of the sky and play dead in the hopes of avoiding males harassing them for sex.
According to the study, every time an unwanted male companion approaches cute female dragonflies, they plunge to the ground.
Yes, they’d even fake their own death!
Scientists at the Ecological Society of America conducted a study to determine the real reasons behind this behavior by observing 31 dragonflies.
Out of the 31 dragonflies observed in the study, 27 played dead to avoid males and were successful.
Unfortunately, six dragonflies weren’t lucky enough, because their males found them desirable despite the fact they were “dead.”
Rassim Khelifa, the lead researcher from the University Of Zurich, Switzerland, already knew what these “cute female dragonflies” were up to because they came back to life once their male companions flew away.
In a study published in the journal Ecology, Khelifa explained:
“While I was waiting at a pond… I witnessed a dragonﬂy dive to the ground while being pursued by another dragonﬂy… the individual that crashed was a female, and that she was lying motionless and upside down on the ground.”
“Upside down is an atypical posture for a dragonﬂy. The male hovered above the female for a couple of seconds and then left. 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. The question arose: Did she trick that male? Did she fake death to avoid male harassment? If so, this would be the ﬁrst record of sexual death feigning in odonates.”
These females may be right to trick the males this way because some male dragonflies may end up damaging their reproductive tracts after mating.
For example, female moorland hawkers are vulnerable to harassment when they lay their eggs since, unlike some other dragonflies, they aren’t guarded by their male mates.
Just a single sexual encounter with a male is enough to fertilize all eggs, and copulating again could damage their reproductive tract. Poor females!
This isn’t the first time that scientists have seen animals faking death to put off suitors. Similar behavior has also been seen in spiders, robber flies, and some mantis species.
Khelifa now hopes to study the dragonflies further to understand whether the behavior is only unique to species that lay eggs alone, or is more widespread.