Dragons and damsels


Story and Photos by Scot Stewart

“Who would deduce the dragonfly from the larva, the iris from the bud, the lawyer from the infant? …We are all shape-shifters and magical reinventors. Life is really a plural noun, a caravan of selves.” — Diane Ackerman

Imagine living in the depths of a murky pond for a year or two, waking one morning, crawling out of the water, cracking and climbing out of your skin and flying away. That is the life of many aquatic insects, but none does it more gracefully than dragonflies and damselflies.

Dragonflies and damsels are ancient—the first dating back 300 million years, starting with primitive dragonflies at the very end of the Carboniferous Period and into the Permian Period as the Paleozoic Era began to wind down. Things didn’t move that fast then, especially the Permian as it lasted 65 million years.  In the early days, dragonflies lived in those famous swamps seen in prehistoric time—just without the dinosaurs. There were large tree ferns, but they were giving way to smaller ferns and plants called equisetum or more commonly known as horsetails.

During this time part of what is now the United States was experiencing uplifting and some glaciation, causing some areas to dry out.  The atmosphere is thought to have had 50 percent more oxygen. Animals started moving toward land. The first snails appeared. Scorpions and spiders became dominant land animals, followed by lizards, crocodiles, dinosaurs and birds as vertebrates developed eggs with waterproof shells. Mayflies and dragonflies took to…

To read the full story, please pick up a copy of this months Marquette Monthly at one of our distribution outlets.

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