Glossary

Some Dragonfly Terms

Dennis R. Paulson

abdomen
last segment of body, the long and slender one, with 10 segments

Anisoptera
suborder to which "true" dragonflies belong

appendages
structures at the end of abdomen: 2 in females, 3 (2 superior, 1 inferior) in male dragonflies, 4 (2 superior, 2 inferior) in male damselflies; distinctive of species

caudal lamellae
three leafy appendages at rear of abdomen in damselflies, for respiration and locomotion; also called caudal gills

copulation
act of fertilization, may be brief or lengthy; male holds female as in tandem, but tip of female's abdomen swings up to contact second segment of male, where accessory genitalia located (sperm transfer already accomplished)

cuticle
outermost covering of insect

damselfly
member of suborder Zygoptera, characterized by narrow wings, fore and hind identical, usually folded over abdomen; small, widely separated eyes; and small size and slender body

dragonfly
member of suborder Anisoptera, characterized by broad wings, fore and hind different, held out from body; large eyes, touching in most groups; and typically large size and bulky body; also used to refer to the entire order

emerge
to leave water and undergo metamorphosis into an adult; emergence is thus both from water and from exuviae

endophytic oviposition
laying eggs into plant tissue

exophytic oviposition
laying eggs onto water or land

exoskeleton
outer hard part of an insect, including legs & wings

exuviae (sing. pl.)
cast skin from any larval molt (including transformation into adult)

femur
first (basal) large leg segment

flight season
period during which adults occur

guarding
behavior by male to keep other males away from ovipositing female he has fertilized

hamules
paired structures that project from pocket under second segment and hold female abdomen in place during copulation

imago
sometimes-used term for adult stage

immature
adult past teneral stage but still not with mature coloration; usually not at water

in copula
collected while copulating

instar
a larval stage; most larvae go through 10-13 of them

interspecific
between different species

labium
lower "lip" of larva that is extended during prey capture

larva (pl. larvae)
immature stage of Odonata

maiden flight
first flight of teneral away from water

mandibles
what dragonfly bites with

mature
of reproductive age, fully colored

metamorphosis
process of changing from larva to adult; happens within larval exoskeleton

molt
each time exuviae is shed; larval growth can take place only when larva is briefly soft at this time

naiad
another term for larva, not much used

nymph
another term for larva, commonly used

ocellus (pl. ocelli)
simple eyes between the large compound eyes

Odonata
order to which dragonflies/damselflies belong

odonate
another term for dragonfly/damselfly

ommatidium (pl. ommatidia)
one division of compound eye

oviposit
to lay eggs

oviposition
act of laying eggs

ovipositor
complex structure at posterior end of female damselflies, darners, and petaltails that functions in endophytic oviposition

pruinose
with powdery bloom that exudes from cuticle and turns it light blue, gray or white

pruinosity
powdery bloom deposited on mature odonates of some species

pterostigma
thickened structure at front of wingtip in most Odonata; function still in question; often called "stigma," but that is the term for the holes in the side of an insect through which aerial respiration takes place

sexual patrol flight
characteristic flight of male odonates at water; either actively searching for females or defending a territory into which females may enter

sperm transfer
when male transfers sperm from tip of abdomen to accessory genitalia on 2nd abdominal segment

tandem
when male and female are linked either in flight or at rest; male damselfly's 4 appendages clasp female at junction of prothorax and thorax; male dragonfly's 3 appendages clasp female at back and top of head

tarsus
third leg segment, made up of several short segments

teneral
adult after it has just emerged, soft and not definitively colored

territoriality
active defense of a small area

thorax
second section of body, bulky part bearing wings and legs

tibia
second leg segment, usually longer and thinner than femur

vulvar lamina
plate under 9th abdominal segment of female odonates that serves to hold eggs in place during exophytic oviposition; distinctive of species

wing sheaths
contain developing wings on thorax of larva; swollen when emergence is near

"wheel"
term often used for the copulation position

Zygoptera
suborder to which damselflies belong