250 million years old, and still going strong

Published: 16 November, 2013 03:53 IST | Kanika Sharma |

Bombay Natural History Society will be helping you spot pretty damsels and dragon (flies) in the air, for the first time. Head to Sanjay Gandhi National Park for a wild Sunday

Forget the mythical dragons; it’s time to get on the back of one of the first to ever insect to fly in the history of evolution -- dragonflies. Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) is all set to change your mind about beauty and how these precious insects compete and rival the toughest in the insect kingdom.

Fulvous Forest Skimmer

Flight of fancy
“We decided to do something different this time as BNHS trails have mostly been about either birds or butterflies. They are just as brightly coloured or even more interesting,” says 30-year-old Prachi Galange, Associate Programme Officer at BNHS. Dragonflies are known to be excellent predators and the fastest fliers in the insect world.

Pigmy Dartlet mating pair

Galange shares her observations on the fascinating species to which she dedicated a one-year study at Borivli’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park: “Not only are they are able to fly but also move forward, backward and hover, which is a unique quality. Plus, when it comes to hunting for prey they are able to predict the exact time when it will be in the centre of their flying -- a quality that only comes with great level of calculation and intelligence.”

Some of the species that can be found at Sanjay Gandhi National Park: Saffron-faced Blue Dart, Black Stream Glider and Crimson Marsh Glider Pics courtesy/Prachi Galange

The Park’s rich biodiversity is famous and reputed. Elaborating on the connect, Galange educates us with a quick lesson -- “as the area has been under study, protosticta gravelyi, an endemic species to the region is commonly found here. Dragonflies or damselflies belong to order odonata. Fascinatingly, odo, which means teeth, was attributed to them as the first scientist who studied them noticed their strong jaws though ironically enough they lack teeth.”

Why so special?
The 250-million-year-old species and the world’s fastest flying predators will be studied keeping their habits and habitat in mind. If you are still thinking of one last reason to be under those sheets, think how they are humans’ most valuable treasure when it comes to ridding pests.

Along the trail, Galange who also happens to be the group leader for the day will help you spot fascinating butterflies, birds and plants. “In the world, there are 5,000 species of damselflies while India has 500,” a substantial number our naturalist guide informs us. It’s time to grab those binoculars and bask in the misty sun to witness nature’s beautiful miracle in all its hues.

Cool facts about the dragonfly
>Most dragonflies prefer to perch themselves close to water, and the length of time they remain perched can vary.
>Because of their compound eyes, dragonflies can see in many directions at once, an almost 360º vision!
>Dragonflies can move each of their four wings independently. In addition to flapping each wing up and down, they can rotate their wings forward and back on an axis.
>Long before the dinosaurs walked the Earth, dragonflies took to the air, being 250 million years old.
>A dragonfly breathes through its anus where the gas exchange occurs.
>They prey on insects like mosquitoes often regarded as pests by humans. 

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