When I first proposed a study on dragonflies be undertaken on the British Exploring 2012 Oman expedition I can’t say the idea was met with the untameable wave of excitement I had hoped for. At the briefing weekend there was certainly bubbling enthusiasm for leopards, hyenas, wolves, dolphins, turtles, birds of prey, snakes and lizards, and even for butterflies!!
I was shocked! Where was the zest for dragonflies?
Well…it turned out no one was aware that dragonflies have the best eyesight of the insect world, or that their aerial abilities in flight are unmatched by anything else on earth, or that their legs are armed with an array of bristles which, when brought together, form a basket in which prey as large as juvenile frogs is captured. Indeed it turned out, no one had held a dragonfly by the wings and stared into its eyes and vicious chewing mouthparts or admired the vivid colours on the leading edge of each wing. No one had felt the Velcro-like adhesion of the setae on their legs. No one had been lucky enough to experience the overwhelming sense of pride as you slice through the air with a large hand net and feel the flittering vibrations of a freshly caught dragonfly.
But thankfully…all that was about to change.
The 2012 and 2013 expedition teams managed to capture eight hundred and ninety seven individual dragonflies which belonged to 20 of the 32 species known for the whole of Dhofar. We discovered a new species for Arabia, Tholymis tillarga, and significantly extended the known range of another species, Rhyothemis semihyalina. Thanks to the hard work of everyone involved in the expeditions the results of this research were published in a scientific journal at the beginning of this month.
The paper can be accessed here http://biotaxa.org/cl/article/view/10.4.857/9736.