Not tonight, I'm dead – How female dragonflies avoid male harassment

After they mate and lay eggs, female dragonflies have no patience for further male attention – new study finds.

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March 17, 2019 16:41
1 minute read.
Not tonight, I'm dead – How female dragonflies avoid male harassment

A dragonfly rests on the twig near the lake in Taanayel, Lebanon May 20, 2018.. (photo credit: JAMAL SAIDI/ REUTERS)

 
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Female dragonflies who don't wish to mate will fake their own death, falling from the sky and laying on the ground frozen until the unwanted male leaves them alone, a study from the University of Zurich found, Newsweek reported.  
 
The behavior was noted in the Swiss Alps, where male dragonflies outnumber females. In 86 percent of cases, females would crash to the ground when males approached them. Those that kept flying “were all intercepted by a male.”

“Of the 27 motionless females, 21 (77.7 percent) were successful in deceiving the coercive male,” University of Zurich researcher Rassim Khelifa said.
Even though it is a risky strategy, faking death appears to help females survive longer and produce more offspring by avoiding coercion.
 
Khelifa further noticed that when males are not present females lay eggs in more open spaces, leading him to reason they lay eggs in dense vegetation to avoid male attention. 
 
The strategy is not unique--robber flies fake their own deaths, so do the mantis and the spider species Pisaura mirabilis. Males from  these species fake death after mating so as not to be eaten. This is, however, the first time the strategy was noted in dragonflies.


Death and mating have an uneasy relation in the wild. National Geographic reported that Pacific salmons die after reproducing; mother Stegodyphus lineatus spiders allow their offspring to devour them after they are born; and male orb weavers of the Argiope genus die after they insert their second sex organ into the females of that species. 


   


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