Female Dragonflies Fake Death to Avoid Males

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Some female dragonflies play dead to avoid sexual harassment. André Karwath/Wiki Commons

Lots of animals will fake being dead to avoid a predator, but it seems a bit drastic to employ such an extreme tactic just to evade a member of the opposite sex. That's exactly the length that female dragonflies feel like they need to go to, however, in order to dodge the pesky advances of male suitors, reports New Scientist.

The experiences of female moorland hawker dragonflies are probably relatable for women across the animal kingdom: sometimes guys just can't take a hint. So, when an unwanted male admirer comes a-buzzing, a female will suddenly plunge to the ground and fake her own death.

In a study recently presented to the Ecological Society of America, the behavior was reported in 27 out of 31 dragonflies observed, a percentage that suggests it could be a far more common tactic than previously realized. Out of these 27 instances, 21 of them proved successful, which means that in six instances, a dead female was still desirable enough for the male to attempt copulation. (Come on guys, seriously?)

According to lead researcher Rassim Khelifa from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, it was clear that the female dragonflies were being deceitful because as soon as the males flew away, the females would immediately brush themselves off and go about business as usual. To be fair to the females, sex isn't exactly simple for moorland hawker dragonflies, and repeated copulation can permanently damage their reproductive tracts.

It's still a surprising behavior; even more surprising that this is the first time it's been observed in dragonflies despite how frequently the behavior was employed among the females studied.

"I was surprised," admitted Khelifa, who has been studying dragonflies for 10 years.