Celithemis eponina

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Geographic Range

Celithemis eponia inhabits the borders of ponds within the Americas. They specifically range from Ontario, Canada and Massachusetts to Florida. They also go as far west as Texas and up north to Nebraska. (Milne and Margery, 1980)

Habitat

Halloween pennant larvae live in many habitats, the most common being aquatic. They have been known to inhabit lakes, ponds, bogs, marshes, rivers, streams, and waterfalls. They can also live in some terrestrial spots such as tree holes and bromeliad leaf-bases.

The adults leave the water and live elsewhere until they are ready to mate. They then return to the water of their youth. (O'Toole, 1986)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • temporary pools

Physical Description

The Halloween pennant's characteristics vary depending on the sex and age of the dragonfly. The larvae (also known as a nymph or naiad) can grow from 5 to 6 cm in length and are yellow to green. Their rectal chamber contains gills and can be used to jet them through the water. Before they emerge as adults, the larvae develop compound eyes and tissue from the labium is withdrawn. As the dragonfly matures, the cuticle becomes thicker and the males develop their bright colors such as reds, yellows, and browns. The males also develop red rectangular spots on the front edge of each wing. They can also grow to 35 to 42 mm. The females are yellow.

The anatomy of both sexes of Celithemis eponina is similar. Like all insects, the Halloween pennant is divided into three sections: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. Their head is movable and contains biting mouthparts, antennae, and very large eyes. These eyes meet in the midline at either one or two points and occupy the greater part of the head. The antennae are quite short and small, containing few sense organs. They play a limited role in sensory life. The thorax has weak legs and four wings. These wings are not attached and operate independently. When the dragonfly is at rest, the wings lie at ninety degrees to the body. The six legs are covered with spurs and are used to grasp items. They are rarely used for walking. In flight, the legs are rested against the body to protect them from wind. The abdomen is long and flattened. The whole body (minus the legs) is devoid of hair and quite colorful. (Grzimeck, 1972; Lyons, 1999; Milne and Margery, 1980; O'Toole, 1986)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently

Development

Eggs are laid in the water by the female. The larvae emerge from these eggs and are aquatic. The larval stage can be anywhere from a few days to a few years. During their final stage as a larvae, they climb out of the water by a stone, plant stalk, or algae. They then split open their larval skin and crawl out as an adult stage. There is no pupal stage. (Grzimeck, 1972; Lyons, 1999; O'Toole, 1986)

Reproduction

The reproduction of the Halloween pennant takes place largely while in flight. The male reproductive organs are well suited for this. The posterior end of the tenth abdominal segment has two superior appendages. Just above the anus is one inferior appendage. These are not used for sperm transfer but for attaching and holding on to the female while in flight. That organ is located on the ventral side of the abdomen next to paired pockets that serve as seminal vesicles. The females lack the inferior appendages because they only have to worry about being fertilized.

The courtship is a extensive set of steps. The female is enticed into the male's habitat by a flight pattern. They then begin the mating process. The male bends his abdomen ventrally to allow the seminal vesicles to collect sperm. The male then files down and grasps the head of the female with his appendages. This is a lock-and-key mechanism. The attached partners form a mating chain with the male in front and the female in back. The female bends her abdomen to reach the male's abdomen. This is when the mating chain becomes the mating wheel. After this, the male and female reproductive organs seperate but the actual dragonflies stay interlocked. The female is now ready to lay her eggs.

The female lays her eggs in dead vegetation in the water. She descends into the water, with the male still attached, and breathes via a protective coat of air which is trapped by the fine hairs on both groups of legs.

The larvae emerge from these eggs and are aquatic. The larval stage can be anywhere from a few days to a few years. During their final stage as a larvae, they climb out of the water by a stone, plant stalk, or algae. They then split open their larval skin and crawl out. They are now an adult. There is no pupal stage. A maiden flight soon follows. The adult pennant then leaves the water for a couple of weeks and returns sexually mature and able to mate. (Grzimeck, 1972; Lyons, 1999; O'Toole, 1986)

Food Habits

The food habits of Celithemis eponina depend on the life stage. Adults eat flying insects such as mosquitoes, flies, and gnats. They will occasionally eat other dragonflies, hunting mainly during the day. All adult Halloween pennants catch their prey during flight.

The naiad eats aquatic insects such as mosquitos or other odonate larvae. The larger naiads may even eat fish. They may also eat oligochaete worms, gastropods, crustaceans, and tadpoles. They are seldom cannibals. They hunt in a different manner than their adult counterparts. They wait slowly and stalk their prey. Their foward protruding eyes overlap allowing for very good judgement of the distance of their prey. The larvae face contains a prehensile mask with a specially modified labium. They also have large sharp pincers which grasp the prey when the mask is unfolded. This all happens at incredibly high speeds. (Grzimeck, 1972; Lyons, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • mollusks
  • aquatic or marine worms
  • aquatic crustaceans

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Celithemis eponina positively benefits humans by helping to control the mosquito population. (Grzimeck, 1972; Lyons, 1999; O'Toole, 1986)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There is no negative affect for humans.

Conservation Status

This species is secure and currently not of any conservation concern.

Other Comments

Some interesting facts on Celithemis eponina and dragonflies in general:

  1. The male Halloween pennant closely resembles an Austrialian species, Rhyothemis graphitera (convergent evolution)
  2. Dragonflies have been in existence since the Permian period
  3. Dragonflies did not become super-fast predatory flyers until the Jurassic period
  4. (Carter, 1994; Grzimeck, 1972)

Contributors

Renee Sherman Mulcrone (editor).

Meghan Anderson (author), Southwestern University, Stephanie Fabritius (editor), Southwestern University.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

bog

a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

freshwater

mainly lives in water that is not salty.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

molluscivore

eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

References

Carter, R. 1994. "Halloween Pennant" (On-line). Accessed February 10, 2001 at http://www.chaparraltree.com/mn/hpennant.shtml.

Grzimeck, B. 1972. Grzimeck's Animal Life Encyclopedia Volume 2. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co..

Lyons, R. 1999. "Damsels and Dragons-the Insect Order Odonata" (On-line). Accessed February 11, 2001 at http://uci.net/~pondhawk/odonata/ips_odonata.html.

Milne, L., M. Margery. 1980. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. New York: Knopf; distributed by Random House.

O'Toole, C. 1986. The Encyclopedia of Insects. New York: Facts on File Publications.