Every once in a while, when you go to bed at night with your partner, you may feign sleep or pretend to have a headache to avoid any interaction.
Well, female dragonflies take it to a whole other level. They will go as far as faking their own death to avoid any interaction with male dragonflies.
Scientists who observed moorland hawker dragonflies in the Swiss Alps were recently able to capture this occurrence on camera. What they witnessed was female dragonflies stopping mid-air and falling to the ground where they stayed unmoving until the male left. The researchers approached the females while they were pretending to be dead, and as they approached, the females immediately flew away. This proves that they do stay alert while faking their own death.
Dragonflies aren’t the only species who use this trick; five other species have been seen to do the same thing. This occurrence has been named ‘death feigning’. It is actually a survival strategy, as female dragonflies often risk injury or death when they are forced into mating with males.
“In a lot of dragonflies, males try to seize the female with or without consent,” Rassim Khelifa, a biologist who recently published a study on the phenomenon, told National Geographic. “The fittest — that is the fastest, most powerful male — is usually the one who mates.”
The female victims are often pounced on by the males while they’re sunbathing by the water. Khelifa found that once a female dragonfly has laid eggs, she will have had enough of the male interactions and will from then on often play dead. Over 60% of the females who used this tactic have effectively escaped their male oppressors. The unsuccessful ones were caught in their act.
Other ways the females try to steer clear of the males is to avoid heavily male populated areas and to try to lay their eggs in dense vegetation.
However, not only females have the capability of thinking of smart diversion to escape their counterparts. The male wolf spider, for example, will also frequently play dead in order to avoid getting eaten after mating with a female.
This information might put our own dating lives a little more in perspective, given that at least you don’t have to fake your own death to avoid someone who is trying to make a move on you.