|Photo Credit: Paul Stein|
Last week I visited Emerald Park Elementary in Kent, Washington. And during our school assembly we talked about what MUSES inspired me to write HERBERT, my new book. Flies, honeybees, bullfrogs, and DRAGONFLIES were just a few.
I showed some of my research on these MUSES and thought I would share what I learned with you in the coming weeks.
If you have read my book, HERBERT, you know that the DRAGONFLIES are the most feared creatures in the book. So, let’s take a look at DRAGONFLIES and find out why they have such a SCARY reputation in the insect world.
Looks like we have found our MUSE! DRAGONFLIES!
Dragonflies were some of the first insects to evolve on Earth some 300 million years ago. So, while the dinosaurs were roaming, the dragonflies were soaring.
But these dragonflies were a bit different than the ones we see today. In shape, they were the same, but in size they were MUCH larger. Today dragonflies have a wingspan of up to five inches, but prehistoric dragonflies had wingspans of up to two feet! Some researchers believe there was more oxygen in the air back then, which allowed things to grow BIGGER.
Take a look at this video. About half way through you will see REAL fossils of these gigantic “flying dragons”!
WOW! Did you see the dragonfly emerging from the nymph stage of metamorphosis? Watching the wings unroll is one of the COOLEST things I have ever seen!
Dragonflies have three major life stages: egg, nymph and adult. This is called metamorphosis. Butterflies also undergo metamorphosis, but they have four stages: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult.
Dragonfly eggs hatch underwater. The nymph dragonfly may live underwater for a few years before climbing to the surface. And while they are underwater, they are tiny predators. Take a look at this video to see a dragonfly nymph on the hunt.
And the hunt doesn’t end here. Once dragonflies become adults they catch their prey in midair. In fact, if a dragonfly loses its ability to fly, it will die of starvation.
Dragonflies have expert flying skills. They can hoover, fly straight up and down, and dart away at lightning speed (well at least it looks like). These mini aviators have inspired engineers to try building robots that can fly like dragonflies.
|Photo Credit: Skyfish|
Not only can dragonflies FLY very well, they can also SEE very well. Two gigantic eyes make up most of the dragonfly’s head. These are eyes are called compound eye because they have 100’s of lenses instead of just one lens like the human eye. This gives the dragonfly to see every angle, except directly behind them. That’s why dragonflies are so hard to catch!
Without these amazing predators we call DRAGONFLIES, we would have A LOT more mosquitos. Dragonflies can eat up to 100 mosquitos a day. That is 100 less mosquitos to feast on our blood. YAY, DRAGONFLIES!
There are nearly 5000 species of dragonflies. Some dragonflies are adults, some live for only a few days, while others may live up to a year.
With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these WHAT IF questions will help you get started.
WHAT IF your main character was a bug collector and found a living prehistoric dragonfly?
WHAT IF your main character was a dragonfly who craved jelly beans instead of mosquitos?
WHAT IF your main character built a dragonfly helicopter?
The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own what if questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.
So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.
The word of the day is “metamorphosis”. Here is the definition: a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism.