30aug ~ Widow Skimmer

We’ve got a bunch of these hawking over the floodplain grasses, and this one has taken a position on a dried thistle head, as an observation post.  At first I though it was a Common whitetail, a.k.a. Long-tailed Skimmer (Plathemis lydia), but their “tail” is whiter, and they don’t have any white in the wings.  This is a Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa), and it is a male, as indicated by the gorgeous white coloration in the otherwise transparent wings. 

They come by that name because after mating, males of this species abandon the females rather than assist them with their egg-laying.  That is common enough, but somehow when this species does it, it makes the female a widow. Maybe it is uncommon in this group of dragonflies, I don’t know, but it is a tedious chore for females to lay eggs in the water while airborne, and in some species, the male is clasps her behind the neck, providing aerial support, while she does it, or guards her while she is egg-laying—not from predators, you understand but from other males.  And he may abandon her if a promising, female happens by.  If you watch some movies you see it happen all the time, although not in dragonflies.  Females mate frequently, but each subsequent male removes the sperm of the previous male, replacing it with his own–the eggs aren’t actually fertilized until they are deposited, so … last one  into the pool is the winner.

The lower image shows what I can see, but often doesn’t get shared.  Stunning venation that looks all-over-the -place, to us, is meticulously arranged and embedded in a tough, flexible, membrane that appears crystalline.  It is truly ancient—not much changed for the last 200 million years.  The double spars on the leading edges of the wings function to increase lift.

But really, it is just here because it is beautiful.

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