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The Erratic Flight Path of the Asymmetrical Dragonfly

Updated on April 28, 2013
Erratic Flight Path of the Asymmetrical Dragonfly, rickzimmerman 2010
Erratic Flight Path of the Asymmetrical Dragonfly, rickzimmerman 2010

Most adult dragonflies have the rather unique ability to propel themselves in six different directions — up, down, left, right, forward and reverse — smoothly, and in remarkably coordinated precision. However, it must be only the members of this unusual and rare asymmetrical subspecies of Anisoptera that appear capable of going in all six directions at once

The species name of Anisoptera derives from the Greek terminology for ‘unequal wings’, and all dragonflies are in fact spawned having unequal wings, with their forewings being narrower than their hind wings. But this unfortunate creature and its ilk also have their right wings much shorter than their left wings (making it, I suppose, more properly Aniso-Anisoptera?). For some as yet not understood reason, all male asymmetrical dragonflies are of the same left-wing orientation, while all female asymmetrical dragonflies are of the opposite orientation.

As a result, this flying, hovering, jittering, juddering, shuddering, shuttling, dipping, dropping, sinking, soaring insect must always arrive at its final destination in only the most roundabout and circumnavigatory of ways, and planning its sojourns becomes quite a challenging task of three-dimensional choreography. (Yet when and if these flyers happen to mate in mid-air, with the male left-handed creature tethered by his genitalia to that of a female right-handed creature, they jointly fly straight as an arrow!)

Unusual flight is not the only, nor the most disturbing, distinguishing trait of these insects. Like all dragonflies, when in the aquatic nymph stage, these creatures actual breath through their rectums, and can rapidly propel themselves through shallow water with a sudden anal gust.


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    • rickzimmerman profile imageAUTHOR

      Rick Zimmerman 

      8 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Wait for the accompanying picture — that's taking forever to upload!

    • FitnezzJim profile image


      8 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      I'm not sure you meant it this way, but I found this funny, and wondered if it might get quoted in a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" debate.


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