If there was a species that goes to great lengths just to avoid sex, it is none other than the female dragonflies. Apparently, they fake their own deaths!
Most male dragonflies are found to harass female dragonflies for sex. This is where female dragonflies fall from the sky and lie motionless on the ground until their suitors go away.
Rassim Khelifa, a zoologist from the University of Zurich, led a study where they first saw a female dragonfly faked her death to avoid mating. According to Newsweek, animals and insects faking their own deaths were rare, which led scientists to further their findings.
In a study Khelifa wrote on July 5, 2015 and published in the journal Ecology, Khelifa narrated how he came about his discovery.
He had been collecting eggs of odonates (a dragonfly or damselfly) in the Swiss Alps to understand how temperature affects larvae. But one day, he observed the behavior of a female dragonfly.
“While I was waiting at a pond near Arosa, at about 2,000 meter elevation, I witnessed a dragonfly dive to the ground while being pursued by another dragonfly… the individual that crashed was a female, and that she was lying motionless and upside down on the ground,” Khelifa wrote.
“Upside down is an atypical posture for a dragonfly. The male hovered above the female for a couple seconds and then left. I expected that the female could be unconscious or even dead after her crash landing, but she surprised me by flying away quickly as I approached. The question arose: Did she just trick that male? Did she fake death to avoid male harassment? If so, this would be the first record of sexual death feigning in odonates.”
Khelifa reported that more than 60 percent of females he observed escaped after faking their death and deceived their suitors. Meanwhile, all the females who did not fake it were intercepted by males.
“I can imagine death feigning evolving to escape mating because males can be very aggressive,” Shannon McCauley, a freshwater ecologist at the University of Toronto MIssissagua, told National Geographic. She added that oftentimes, female dragonflies get hurt or drown during the mating process.