Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis, Garden Pond, Amherst, NH, July 2006, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/125 sec @ f7.7, ISO 64, with flash © Steven Crisp

I was walking around our little garden pond today and look what just happened to be stuck to the underside of one of our pond plants! My own little biology class ;-) I assume this is some sort of dragonfly undergoing a metamorphasis from larvae (actually, properly called an aquatic nymph) to adult, but I have not been able to confirm that -- all you entimologists are invited to offer your insights.

Evolution is certainly an interesting process, and dragonflies have been around in one form or another for over 200 million years, continuing to perfect that branch of the evolutionary experiment. It has resulted in some measured excellence -- for example, dragonflies are the fastest insects on earth, capable of flying over 60 mph. And their eyes have over 30,000 facets giving them excellent vision over nearly 360 degrees. I wonder if this is a picture of one adult from the same order.

As I was looking on the internet for some information on what type of critter this might be, I finally found a link that showed time sequenced photographs of the metamorphosis, and found out that this transformation from aquatic nymph to flying adult takes only a few hours. Alas, when I went back to watch my nymph more closely, she was gone -- perhaps already having flown away. How can such a dramatic transformation -- in physical form as well as physiology -- take place in such a short span of time?

You know, I always had this image in my mind of aquatic nymphs, which look just a little different than this bug. I think I like John William Waterhouse's image a little bit better. Which would you prefer to find in your pond?

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