Super predator — round 2

A couple of weeks ago (June 22) I wrote about dragonflies as super-predators, based on their unique adaptations for successful “search and capture”.  However, I think we under-estimate what these super-predators are capable of — i.e., predation on other predators.

Following what sounded like dragonfly wing buzzing in the grass at my feet, I spied two of them engaged in a tussle.  A Horned Clubtail had grabbed a female 12-spotted Skimmer by the back of her head and was proceeding to eat it!  I couldn’t see very well through the thick grass, but attempted to photograph what was going on anyway.  I could hear the munching, though, as the Clubtail crunched through the Skimmer’s exoskeleton.

Horned Clubtail (blue eyes) on top of female 12-spotted Skimmer (brown eyes)

Horned Clubtail (blue eyes) on top of female 12-spotted Skimmer (brown eyes)

The clubtail has almost completely devoured the Skimmer's head.  You can just barely see clubtail mouthparts above and to the right of the Skimmer's thorax.

The clubtail has almost completely devoured the Skimmer’s head. You can just barely see clubtail mouthparts above and to the right of the Skimmer’s thorax.

The Clubtail flew off when I finally got too inquisitive poking around in the grass, and this is what was left of the Skimmer.

Only the thorax with wings and abdomen remain.  It took less than 5 minutes to eat this much of the Skimmer.

Only the thorax with wings and abdomen remain. It took less than 5 minutes to eat this much of the Skimmer.

The Horned Clubtail will apparently eat whatever it can catch.  There are reports of Midland Clubtails eating other dragonflies, but I didn’t find this behavior described for the Horned Clubtail.

Horned Clubtails actually lack the swollen club present in the terminal segments of the abdomen on other clubtail species, and they carry a couple of wicked looking cow horns with which they hold the female in copulatory flight.  ouch!

horned clubtail

horns of horned clubtail

This kind of predatory behavior certainly puts these guys on the top of the pond food chain.

5 thoughts on “Super predator — round 2

  1. Yikes. I know that I have never seen this before and didn’t know that dragonflies had the mouthparts to gnaw on something like the head of another dragonfly. In fact, I am not sure that I have ever seen a dragonfly eat anything.

    • I searched for reports about this, but only found a couple of examples. Perhaps it is really rare, and I just happened to catch one. They should be able to avoid each other with those great eyes of theirs.

  2. Pingback: Dragonfly and bee | Mike Powell

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