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Female dragonflies play dead to avoid male advances and the internet loves them for it

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New research suggests certain female dragonflies avoid male advances by pretending to be dead – and women around the world are finding this scenario all too relatable.

According to a study published by scientists at the University of Zurich, female moorland hawkers (Aeshna juncea) fake sudden death when pursued relentlessly by males.

And it appears every woman who has ever been in that situation knows the feeling only to well – including Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

Writing in the journal Ecology, lead author Rassim Khelifa said he first had the idea for his research two years ago while waiting beside a pond near Arosa in the Swiss Alps and spotting a female dragonfly diving into the ground while being chased by a male.

“I expected that the female could be unconscious or even dead after her crash landing, but she surprised me by flying away quickly as I approached,” he wrote. “The question arose: did she just trick that male? Did she fake death to avoid male harassment?”

Moorland hawker.
(Thinkstock)

After examining several female moorland hawkers at a phase when they are most vulnerable to male coercion – Khelifa observed sexual death feigning in 27 out of 31 female moorland hawkers, with 21 of them proving successful in deceiving the coercive males.

Khelifa now wants to find out whether the behaviour is unique among arthropods (invertebrate animals with exoskeletons – such as insects) or whether it is more widespread.

Meanwhile, the female moorland hawker’s new-found fame continues to spread far and wide across the internet…




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