Dragonfly Metamorphosis: Learn More About This Process

The dragonfly’s adult stage can be fleeting in relation to its complex juvenile development.
Dragonfly metamorphosis: learn more about this process

Regardless of whether its life cycle is less than six months, or if, on the contrary, it exceeds five years,  the dragonfly’s metamorphosis is characterized by its morphological and physiological complexity.

The anisoptera belongs to one of two suborders that make up the order Odonata , which includes more than 5,000 species of insects. They are commonly known as dragonflies or damselflies, although this term lacks taxonomic rigor as it is also used to name all odonatas.

The Three Stages of Dragonfly Metamorphosis

As with any other species, the reproductive process begins with copulation; however,  dragonflies stand out for being able to mate in mid-flight.

Once the process is finished, the female usually lays eggs among the vegetation, in areas close to a calm watercourse. In some cases, the total can reach 500 eggs.

After hatching, the nymph stage starts, the longest of all  the  metamorphosis Dragonfly that can exceed four years. At this stage, the nymphs grow and develop in the aquatic environment, capturing small invertebrates from the environment through their powerful jaws.

Curiosities about the dragonfly

Depending on the species, these animals will undergo different nymphal changes, through which they will develop wings and gradually lose the appearance of the first stage. Also, they will stop using the gill system; thus, after the first exposure to air, they will be able to breathe.

Once it has acquired an enlarged abdomen, with folded wings and prominent eyes, and spring climatic conditions emerge, the dragonfly will begin its adult stage out of the water:  it then sheds a skin known as  exuvia .

During the first days of this new stage, the dragonfly is settling in the middle, strengthening its legs and wings and avoiding the attacks of countless predators.

Remarkably,  the locomotor system completely changes from nymph to dragonfly. While in the juvenile stage she moves quickly through an expulsion of water through the anus, they are now able to fly in six different directions.


Although there are exceptional cases of longer-lived dragonflies,  in most species the adult stage is usually reduced to a few months. Therefore, after accommodation to the terrestrial environment, its main objective is to find a partner with which to reproduce, in order to restart the entire biological cycle described.

Dragonfly global distribution

Currently, around 5,700 species of dragonflies have been discovered around the world  and, although their presence is greater in the tropics, as is the case in Mexico, which has around 360 species, in the Iberian Peninsula more than 70 have been identified.

In Spain, the diversity of the anisoptera family is mainly due to climatic conditions and the presence of numerous sweet and temperate aquatic environments.

Although most dragonflies normally spend most of their life around aquatic environments with dense riparian vegetation, others stand out for their long migrations, such as species belonging to the genera LibellulaSympetrum  and  Pantala .

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