I shall resist the underwhelming urge to throw in a bit of canonical wordplay concerning St. George, and merely say that this is my first insect photograph with my new 50mm F1.8 lens. The dappled sunlight behind the dragonfly is a testament to the glory of shooting with this enormously apertured lens – the bokeh is a pleasure to both create and to view. I was only in Georgia for ten days in between Kerala and New York, but it was a pleasure to step out of my grandmother’s (an avid odonatophile) back door to find this dragonfly patiently waiting for me. Continue reading
As the monsoons blow through Kerala, the native dragonfly and damselfly populations in the area appear to wax and wane along with the water levels. A sunny day by any water body guarantees sighting at least one species, but as is only so common during the season, overcast days dominate the calendar. Nevertheless, Kerala’s entomological biodiversity remains as strong as the summers, during which dozens of Odonate species whizz back and forth teritorially over their little stretch of pond-shore or riverbank. The main reason that these insects are not out in force as frequently as the rest of the year is that they are most active in hot and dry climates, particularly in direct sunlight. Contrarily, monsoons traditionally offer respite to natives, being wet and (slightly) cooling. When they’re not visibly hunting or mating, dragonfly and damselfly populations are probably strongest in the larval stage – extraordinarily aggressive aquatic predators. I got lucky a few days ago on a sunny day on the backwaters when I saw a Granite Ghost – in my books a rarer species of dragonfly that I’ve only sighted once in Goa.
The first time I saw this species, I was dumbfounded, to say the least. We live in a 10th floor apartment in urban Cochin, which admittedly is on the banks of the backwaters. Nonetheless, I was quite surprised to see a dull-colored damselfly float through a window and over our dining room table, and out the door onto the balcony on the opposite side of the room. Fortunately, I gathered my wits quickly enough to rush back with my camera, and corralled the enigma into a corner in the balcony (non-violently, of course), and was able to get a few shots before it breezed off in the lethargic float I’ve come to associate with damselflies. The only time I’ve seen any damselfly zooming the way most dragonflies do is when they’re swooping in on their prey, at which point even the laziest, slowest, and smallest of them can put on quite a turn of speed.
300 million years ago, the world was a very different place. Besides the severe geological changes and the sudden appearance of invertebrates, the Paleozoic Era was host to a severe change in atmospheric composition – namely the extreme increase of oxygen levels, and a drastic drop of carbon dioxide. The atmosphere, changing so radically, caused one or two ice ages, a few extinctions, and a natural development of what we today would consider very strange creatures indeed.
Scientists today, curious about (or perhaps inspired by) the fossils of dragonflies with 2-foot wingspans that zipped and zoomed (or whooshed, rather) through the Paleozoic skies, have been conducting experiments on the effects of atmospheric oxygen levels on short-term adaptation in a variety of insects. In late 2010, results were produced – on a large scale.