When we think about long distance travelling animals we’re mostly picturing birds flying south for the winter, That, and maybe the Monarch butterfly that makes its way from Canada to Mexico every year. But a new study would show that none of them have anything on a particular tiny dragonfly.
According to the team of researchers from Rutgers University, the globe skimmer dragonfly changes continents on a whim. They mostly do so to breed, travelling form colder, drier areas to warmer, moister environments in order to lay its eggs.
Interestingly, the tiny insect wasn’t named the globe skimmer for its ability to cross continents and fly over seas. Instead, it was named so for its very wide distribution. Ranging from North and South America to Japan, and even India, nobody knew how the small critter could be found all over the world.
That was until recently when a team researchers led by Rutgers University’s Jessica Ware decided to look at the creature’s DNA in order to find out more about its distribution. The team’s findings were fascinating, to say the least. Below is what Ware had to say about the genetic testing.
This is the first time anyone has looked at genes to see how far these insects have traveled. If North American Pantala only bred with North American Pantala, and Japanese Pantala only bred with Japanese Pantala, we would expect to see that in genetic results that differed from each other. Because we don’t see that, it suggests the mixing of genes across vast geographic expanses.
So it turns out that the insects change continents in order to mate. A bit drastic, but if that’s your thing, why not go for it? Anyway, now that we know how far these dragonflies are willing to go in order to mate, let’s find out exactly how they can do it.
According to scientists, the creatures’ large wings are perfect for riding wind currents. They globe skimmers just find a suitable current and ride it to their destination – over oceans, spanning entire continents. They do this once a year, one of their favorite courses being from India to Africa.
But wait, that’s a lot of ground to cover. While the monarch butterflies were known as the longest travelling animals, with them going from Canada to Mexico once a year, it turns out that the overachieving globe skimmers travel roughly twice their distance.
While scientists aren’t yet sure of how the creatures manage to survive cross-continental travel, they do know the rough distance the dragonflies can travel – about 4,400 miles.
Image source: Wikimedia