Thursday, August 27, 2009

The stylish pleats on a dragonfly’s wings provide more than just a snappy look!

When I was out in the field photographing the dragonflies, I didn’t know their wings were pleated. I just knew their wings were gorgeous and I wanted a closer look at them, so I started focusing the lens on the wings at different angles, trying to capture the patterns of veining and their thin, delicate beauty. It wasn't until I downloaded the photos and started studying them that I noticed the wings were pleated like corrugated steel or cardboard!

If you look carefully, you can see pleats in the middle of the wing.

Looking straight on, it's easy to see the zig-zaggy ripples.

Intricate, lacy veining...beautiful.

When you're not zoomed in you barely
notice the corrugation, but it's there!

Of course I wanted to know why those wings were zig-zaggy, so I did a quick Google search. The first article that popped up was "A computational study of the aerodynamic performance of a dragonfly wing section in gliding flight," by Abel Vargas, Rajat Mittal and Haibo Dong. That sounded promising, so I read it and found some pretty cool info. If you want to read the entire paper, click here. Published on May 23, 2008, these aerospace engineers from The George Washington University found through a simulated study of pleated and non-pleated wings that the pleats in a dragonfly's wings are a unique adaptation, or in their words, "an ingenious design of nature," that can help produce more lift than a smooth wing. The reason being air circulation between the pleats results in less drag, which is good for gliding (and dragonflies do a lot of that!).

Isn't that cool? What started as an attraction to the lacy, delicate beauty of the veining and iridescence of the wings, turned into another AWE of Mother Nature. She always does know what she’s doing……

I wonder if I can design a super-duper paper airplane with this information! :-)

34 comments:

Warren Baker said...

That was very interesting Kelly. lovely pics

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Kelly
What a very interesting Blog. Dragonflies can be scary looking creatures with the manoeuvrability of a jet fighter, and it is all done with the aid of those fragile looking wings,lightweight in construction, but such strength.
Very nice pictures Kelly.

Andrea said...

Breathtaking. I never would have known. A~

Jenny said...

Fabulous and interesting post Kelly. I've never seen anything like that over here on our Dragons, I'll certainly have to go and take a closer look now, it if can get close enough to them! (-:

holdingmoments said...

Now that is something I never knew!
Amazing Kelly.

Abraham Lincoln said...

Most interesting post. I still have not seen one in my backyard.

Pick a Peck of Pixels

Susan Ellis said...

Great photos!! I love it when you can just keep digging and finding out new info. (Much more fun than when we had to do it in school!)

Cicero Sings said...

You get such great close ups ... what kind of lens do you use? I'm thinking of getting a DSLR and if I do, I want a good macro lens.

Loved the info.

Midmarsh John said...

Well - that is something I have never noticed but will certainly investigate at the next opportunity.

Sue said...

Those are some incredible close-up shots you got, Kelly. Interesting info too.

Laure Ferlita said...

Nature at her finest! Ingenuous, practical and GORGEOUS design all in one!

Thanks for a great post - this makes me smile!

The Early Birder said...

Hi Kelly. Thanks for another very interesting post. Once again I've learnt something new. Getting such good close ups certainly helped with your investigations. FAB

Roy said...

Its a pretty snappy photographer as well.{:)

Adrienne in Ohio said...

Kelly, this is fascinating! Great macro photos to show us this amazing construction.

JKoenig said...

That is very interesting. I have always been in awe of their huge eyes but never paid that close of attention to the wings. The colors of the dragonfly in your photos were beautiful and different than most I have seen.

Cindy said...

Hi Kelly. Great information about their wings. I never knew that. They do have fantastic wings don't they. Have a wonderful weekend.

Great photos.

Mary said...

Wow...you are really a student of nature! That is fantastic and the photos really show what you are talking about.

Elaine said...

Wow! Kelly, you have a very sharp eye. I had to go look at my dragonfly photos and enlarge them so I could see the wings better, and sure enough I could see the pleats. I thought it was just part of the lacy pattern of the wings. Thanks for providing such interesting information. Your closeups of the wings are supurb!

forestal said...

Very informative post and some fantastic pics, I never would have guessed without such a closeup view

dan

NCmountainwoman said...

Wow, that's amazing. I'll never look at them in the same way again. Great photographs and explanation.

andrea said...

Cool. I've been watching dragonflies lately and this is one of those factoids that I can share with my fellow observers (i.e. bore my kids with! :) The photos are art all in themselves. Beautiful.

Montanagirl said...

Very interest post as always. The photos are stunning, and in your previous post also.

Caroline said...

How amazingly observant you are - next time I will take a really good look at those pleats! These are truly gorgeous photos.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Great Kelly.. I had no idea that dragonflies could be so gorgeous. You captured some fabulous photos. Wow!!!

Hugs,
Betsy

ShySongbird said...

How very fascinating Kelly, you certainly draw our attention to details we might otherwise miss and of course your beautiful photography illustrates your point so well.

Tammie Lee said...

Of course you can design a super duper airplane! Maybe even wings for yourself ;-}
These close ups are wonderful and I can see what you are sharing with us. This is interesting and gorgeous! So fun to see through your eyes and excitement.

Midmarsh John said...

Hi Kelly. I managed to see the same ridges and troughs on our Common Darter Dragonfly today. Would never have noticed without your blog entry.

Greener Bangalore said...

My god! you are amazing Kelly!!!

Kelly said...

Thanks, everyone! I thought those wings were amazing too. I just never imagined they were pleated, but seeing is believing. I'm just glad engineers did a study to let us know why!! Yesterday I watched lots of dragonflies and noticed they are very fast and do glide alot...now I know why.
John....yeah! I'm glad you saw them too. I imagine we will all be looking now. As always...thank you so much for your kind comments! I'm so glad there are others out there who love nature too!

Rambling Woods said...

Holy Cow..what amazing macros you get Kelly. I saw some dragons this morning, but it's getting late in the season and I think they were autumn meadow hawks. They are easier to spot than the damsels.... Michelle

DK Miller said...

Wow! Cool photos. Do you mind sharing what lens you used for those??

Kelly said...

Diane...I don't have a macro....I use a Nikon AF-S VR-Nikkor 70-200mm 2.8G lens and a Nikon 2x teleconverter. For distance shots and close-ups I always use a monopod and then crop the images down in Aperture (I'm a Mac). The lens is nice because it has vibration reduction, which makes the cropped image quality acceptable.

iva yaneva said...

oh my, this is amazing! it makes you wonder how there is so much thought in everything around us.. fabulous!

dreamfalcon said...

I love these pictures!
Will you post pictures of the paper airplanes you will construct... :-)