Every unattached male who is looking for Mrs. Right knows what it is like to fancy an attractive lady and wonder whether she feels the same way about him. Unfortunately, men are not particularly adept at reading the signals. Apparently this phenomenon is not unique to humans. The female dragonfly has developed a simple-yet-effective way of letting would-be suitors know that she just isn’t into them: she fakes her own death.
This unusual practice was first documented by Rassim Khelifa from the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He watched as a moorland hawker dragonfly (Aeshna juncea) was being pursued by an interested male. When the would-be Romeo failed to pick up on less-subtle cues, the female adopted a different tactic. She crashed into the ground and lay motionless on her back, appearing to be dead. She held this position until her pursuer lost interest and flew away. Once freed of her stalker, she got up and continued on with her business.
Khelifa, who has studied dragonflies for ten years, expressed surprise at what he witnessed. He attempted to replicate the incident with 31 female dragonflies. Of these, 27 adopted the same practice as the first by plummeting out of the sky and pretending to be dead.
Interestingly enough, out of these 27 fake deaths, only 21 were successful in getting the annoying suitor to leave them alone. This, apparently, shows that male dragonflies are about as clueless when it comes to social cues as some humans are.
Kehlifa published his findings in the the Journal of the Ecological Society of America. There is no word on whether he is contemplating a similar study involving human interactions.
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