Ask A Scientist: Bug-eyed and Beautiful

Curious Cuddlefish asks, “Why are dragonfly eyes so big?”


Thatโ€™s a great question, Curious Cuddlefish. From a distance, dragonflies might look like they only have 2 eyes, but what looks like one big eye to you is actually thousands of tiny eyes! These are called compound eyes. Depending on the species, each dragonfly compound eye can be made up of up to 30,000 smaller eyes, which are called ommatidia. These compound eyes give Dragonflies an almost 360 degree field of vision so they can see in almost every direction. This helps them see their tiny prey against the big blue sky so they can swoop in for a snack! Keep looking for answers with your own two, camera-type eyes, Curious Cuddlefish!

-Christofer, the dragonfly scientist


Christofer Brothers is a PhD student at UC Davis who studies dragonflies. He is interested in predator-prey dynamics, predatory behavioral tactics, and the biomechanics of prey capture.

Main image [provided by Cristofer Brothers]: A vibrant red Flame Skimmer dragonfly, Libellula saturata, rests on Christofer’s hand.

Interested in learning more? Check out this article to read more about dragonfly eyes and check out this page to enjoy some more dragonfly eye photography. Curious about your own eyes? Look here for more information on how the human eye works.

If you have any questions about animals for our scientists, you can submit them here.

References:

Olberg, R. M. (2012). Visual control of prey-capture flight in dragonflies. Current opinion in neurobiology22(2), 267-271.

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