Female Dragonflies Fake Death
Photo: Twitter / bug_gwen

Here's a dating tactic that takes ghosting to a new level.

 

A new study has revealed that female dragonflies have an innovative way of discouraging males they aren't into: they drop from the sky and play dead on the ground.

 

Rassim Khelifa, a researcher from the University of Zurich, witnessed this in the moorland hawker dragonfly. In the Swiss Alps, he saw a female dive-bomb to the ground while being pursued by a male fly.

 

The female then lay motionless on her back. After the interloper flew away, the female revived. “Upside down is an atypical posture for a dragonfly," wrote Khelifa. "The male hovered above the female for a couple seconds and then left. I expected that the female could be unconscious or even dead after her crash landing, but she surprised me by flying away quickly as I approached. The question arose: Did she just trick that male? Did she fake death to avoid male harassment? If so, this would be the first record of sexual death feigning in odonates [dragonflies].”

 

Twenty-seven out of 31 female dragonflies used this tactic. He had been studying dragonflies for a decade, and this was the first time he observed the behavior.

 

Several people on Twitter realized they had never related more to the animal kingdom:

 

 

But unlike in humans, faking it is desirable. It's a form of protection. Female moorland hawkers are not protected by their male counterparts and are susceptible to aggressive male attention. The females' super-successful shafting technique seems to be used most often after they've laid their eggs; getting pregnant again so soon would damage their reproductive system.

As it happens, turnabout is fair play. Four other species have been observed to fake their own deaths during the courtship process. These include two species of robber fly, the European mantis and the spider species Pisaura mirabilis.

Those are males, and they do it to avoid being killed after sex.