Biggest Dragonfly Ever?

Meganeuradae

Cast of a mega-insect fossil,
courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

I was flipping through my Google Reader when I came across this Not Exactly Rocket Science post. I was immediately struck by the image (at left) — it appeared to me to be the fossil imprint of a giant dragonfly. Indeed, in a way, it is. This extinct insect, which is related to (but not the same as) today’s dragonflies, was found in fossil form in France in the 1880s.

To give his readers an idea of how big these beautiful predators were, science writer Ed Yong notes that “each of its wings was the length of my arm” (the PNAS article Yong is highlighting notes wingspans of up to 70 cm, or a little over 2.25 ft). Meganeura are believed to have fed on other insects and small amphibians.

So, how did these insects get to be so big, what happened to them, and why are they now so (relatively) tiny? Ed Yong explains some of the research, and Wikipedia gives a good brief summary.

About Gem

Writer, photographer, editor, wife, friend, sister, dog mother.
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One Response to Biggest Dragonfly Ever?

  1. keagiles says:

    Note: This story was also reported on LiveScience on 4 June: http://www.livescience.com/20735-giant-insects-shrunk.html (Giant Insects Shrunk As Birds Entered Prehistoric Skies, by Jennifer Welsh).

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