A new research study gives us an inside look at the secret life of dragonflies and how they hunt for prey. The research was conducted by a team of scientists at Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia.
A look at dragonfly hunting techniques
The team used ultra high speed cameras and an artificial fruit fly to entice the dragonfly into hunting it. This study showed researchers dragonflies hunt in a predictive way rather than a reactive way. They don’t copy their prey’s movement because they have their own. This is a surprising find for scientists who up until now only believed that birds, mammals, and fish were the only creatures to use predictive hunting techniques.
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Dragonflies are predatory insects with their own unique hunting strategies. When hunting, these insects are rather sneaky when hunting. The insects camoflage movements and body orientation without losing site of their food. Researchers explained if dragonflies used reactive hunting methods, every steering movement from the victim would have been copies by dragonflies. However when the fruit flies changed direction in flight, the dragonflies remained on course about 70% of the time.
A complex study
Anthony Leonardo (researcher for Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janella Research Campus) explained, “This highlights the role that internal models play in letting these creatures construct such a complex behavior It starts to reshape our view of the neural underpinnings of this behavior.”
Stacey A. Combes (biologist for Harvard University) added the following in Nature journal, “Until now, this type of complex control, which incorporates both prediction and reaction, had been demonstrated only in vertebrates. However, Mischiati et al. show that dragonflies on the hunt perform internal calculations every bit as complex as those of a ballet dancer.”
Neuroscientists discovered a lot about the nervous system and system triggers in response to sensory information by studying the reflexive behaviors, such an example of this would be how an animal escapes a predator. Leonardo has made it his mission to study dragonflies and the insect’s method of capturing prey. Leonardo’s team spent several years trying to devise a system which allows them to track the dragonfly’s movement as it captures prey.