Dragonfly copulation, which can last for hours, is an aggressive, elaborate and acrobatic affair.
Male dragonflies make the first move to initiate sex, usually whilst in flight, getting a firm hold on the females body. He then uses a pair of clamps on his abdomen to grab her by the neck, and when flying together this is called "tandem linkage" - amazing how some biologist came up with all these sex position names for insects eh? They then consumate their sex, forming a wheel as the female bends the end of her body up to join the end of her abdomen with the male's thorax, where he actually has his penis. This position is unique to dragonflies (and maybe some gymnasts). As females may mate with many partners, the last sexual partner will probably be the one to fertilise her eggs....so some males decide to "hang-on" and continue to clasp the female, even if they are not mating, often continuing to do this until she lays her eggs. This will deter other males, before or after mating and it gives a nice perch for a view around, as in the picture on the left below
All this seems very strange, but something even weirder "sexual death feigning" was discovered just in May last year ago by a Swiss scientist: to avoid sex some females fake their own deaths. Female moorland hawker dragonflies freeze mid-air, crash to the ground, and lie motionless when faced with aggressive males. Not sure that would help with aggressive Hollywood moguls tho.
Click on an image below to see it full size...or see our Flickr page with more EXIF and other photographic data This is part II of a IV part series. The next two in the series will appear next week, with egg laying, hatching and more pictures.
Pictures of dragonflies in flight are particularly challenging due to their small size, and rapid movements. Here a male clasps a female prior to mating, in flight.