Quirks & Quarks

Dragonflies are world travellers

Genetic analysis reveals that a ubiquitous dragonfly species has been making ocean crossing migrations

Genetics reveals dragonfly species that travels around the world

Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) male in flight. (Greg Lasley)
A somewhat drab, fairly ordinary, quite ubiquitous dragonfly turns out to be one of the most well-travelled and interesting insects in the world.

Dr. Jessica Ware, a Canadian dragonfly specialist and biologist at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, encountered a generic yellow-brown dragonfly, called Pantala flavescens, no matter where she went. But when she and her colleagues did a genetic analysis of the insects, they found something shocking.

The analysis suggested that populations of the dragonfly, separated by continents and oceans, were interbreeding, which meant they were somehow migrating across vast distances around the world. Apart from one known migration - from Africa to India - the other migrations are entirely unknown - but must be happening.

Related Links

- Paper in PLOS One
- Rutgers University release
Newsweek article
Christian Science Monitor article