Prey pursuit and interception in dragonflies

J Comp Physiol A. 2000 Feb;186(2):155-62. doi: 10.1007/s003590050015.


Perching dragonflies (Libellulidae; Odonata) are sit-and-wait predators, which take off and pursue small flying insects. To investigate their prey pursuit strategy, we videotaped 36 prey-capture flights of male dragonflies, Erythemis simplicicollis and Leucorrhinia intacta, for frame-by-frame analysis. We found that dragonflies fly directly toward the point of prey interception by steering to minimize the movement of the prey's image on the retina. This behavior could be guided by target-selective descending interneurons which show directionally selective visual responses to small-object movement. We investigated how dragonflies discriminate distance of potential prey. We found a peak in angular velocity of the prey shortly before take-off which might cue the dragonfly to nearby flying targets. Parallax information from head movements was not required for successful prey pursuit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Depth Perception / physiology
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Head Movements / physiology
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology