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Odonate History

Ode Fossil

Isophlebia aspasia (Hagen, 1862), female, Upper Jurassic, Solnhofen, Germany, coll. H. Tischlinger (Stammham, Germany) no. 71/64

courtesy of Günter Bechly, Böblingen, Germany -

Dragonflies and damselflies are part of the most ancient group of insects on the planet.  There records date back to the Carboniferous Period some 300 million years ago, long before the dinosaurs appeared.  We no about these ancient insects through their fossils.  As pictured left, dragonflies of this period were fairly large.  Perhaps the most remarkable of all were the giant dragonflies, Meganeuropsis permiana and their cousins, with wingspans that reached 2.5 feet long. 

No modern day dragonflies, can compare in size with those that existed some 300 million years ago.  Our largest modern day dragonfly Megaloprepus caertua, from South America has a wingspan slightly over 7 inches.  Dragonflies today do  not look very different from their ancestors except maybe for their reduced size.  It is guessed that the most ancient of dragonfly lineages belongs to the Petaluridae, or Petaltail Family, which has two North American species.

Dragonflies and Damselflies are clearly survivors!

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