Nature diary > Obelisking dragonflies


Why do dragonflies stick their tails up like that? You see dragonflies doing this in bright sun on a very hot day. Sometimes dragonflies point their tails up towards the sun and sometimes you see them point their tails down and away from the sun.

Field guides call this the upward pointing behavior obelisking, I suppose, because a tail pointing up looks like an Egyptian obelisk. The belief is that dragonflies do this to reduce the exposure of their abdomen to the sun. Dragonflies breathe through their abdomen. If you get a close look at a dragonfly through binoculars or a camera viewfinder you see the abdomen pulsing as they breathe. A cooler abdomen means cooler air drawn in.

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