Climate change is affecting many species of animals and insects around the world, and dragonflies are no exception. Many recent changes have been noted in the world’s dragonfly populations, which has led some to wonder: how will dragonflies adapt to a warmer earth? Are they affected by climate change, or are other natural factors to blame? Keep reading as we answer these questions and more.
What You'll Learn Today
Are Dragonflies Affected By Climate Change?
Climate change can refer to a number of environmental changes occurring over time. These changes can include habitat loss, global warming, and increased pesticide use.
Dragonflies are affected by all three of these factors, so it is safe to say that they are affected by climate change.
Dragonfly populations have declined over time, according to the IUCN. As many as 16 percent of the world’s dragonfly and damselfly species are in danger of going extinct.
Other dragonfly species have migrated to different parts of the world to escape climate change, and still others have undergone physical adaptations to help them survive in warmer temperatures. We’ll take a closer look at both of these changes in a moment.
Different aspects of climate change may have these effects on dragonflies in different parts of the world.
For example, the removal of wetland habitats in favor of palm tree plantations is the most likely cause of dragonfly decline in Asia. Meanwhile, pesticide use and global warming are thought to have the biggest impact on species in North America.
As the planet continues to warm, it seems likely that dragonfly populations will continue to be affected. But the question remains: how will they adapt to these changes?
How Will Dragonflies Adapt to a Warmer Earth?
To determine how dragonflies will adapt as the earth changes, we must consider the adaptations they have already undergone.
As mentioned in the section above, many dragonfly species have seen their numbers decline over time. Some have declined to the point of near-extinction.
With this in mind, it seems likely that some species will be unable to adapt sufficiently. These may eventually become extinct.
According to the BBC, many dragonfly species have migrated from southern parts of Europe to Britain and points further north. Even some northern species have migrated to new areas.
One factor in this migration may be an increase in wetland areas throughout Britain and a loss of such habitats elsewhere. It’s possible the dragonflies are simply moving to more suitable habitats.
But it is also thought this migration could be due to global warming. As temperatures climb, dragonflies migrate northward in search of cooler climates.
It is possible this trend will continue in the future as well. Species throughout the world may adapt by moving to cooler northern ranges.
Finally, some dragonfly species may adapt by changing their wing color or other dark physical markings. But what does this have to do with the earth growing warmer?
Why Does Dragonfly Wing Color Change?
A 2021 academic study compared the wing color of identical dragonfly species in warm and cool climates. The researchers looked at over 300 species of dragonflies and damselflies as part of this study.
They determined that many of the species exhibited darker wing patterns and markings in cool climates, while the same species living in warmer climates displayed lighter markings.
Interestingly, this anomaly was only observed in males; females of the same species did not appear to adapt in the same way.
That said, males of many species are known to exhibit darker wings than females, as this is a reproductive characteristic used to attract a mate.
This lack of dark coloration in warmer climates may be due to the fact that dark colors absorb sunlight. Therefore, darker wings absorb more heat, potentially overheating dragonflies in warm climates to the point of wing damage and even death.
With this in mind, it’s possible that dragonfly species around the world will gradually lose their dark wing coloration as the earth warms up. There is some concern as to how this will affect dragonfly mating and reproduction habits, but only time will tell.
To learn more about this study, check out the following video:
Dragonflies are certainly affected by global warming and other forms of climate change. To adapt as the earth grows warmer, dragonflies may move to warmer climates or undergo physical changes, such as lighter wing coloration.