At 06:43 in The Secrets of Nature video Sky Hunters, The World of the Dragonfly - The Secrets of Nature the narrator says:

Scientists have been collecting dragonflies since the eighteenth century, but there’s always been a difficulty. Dragonflies quickly become deathly pale, they lose all their color. That’s why collectors have usually preferred to concentrate on butterflies...

and an image of rows and rows of uncolored dragonflies pinned to a display are show.

Question: Why do dragonflies lose all of their coloration once they die?

Sky Hunters, The World of the Dragonfly - The Secrets of Nature click screen shots for full size

Sky Hunters, The World of the Dragonfly - The Secrets of Nature Sky Hunters, The World of the Dragonfly - The Secrets of Nature

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I have also seen spiders losing colors when they die. $\endgroup$ – Nilay Ghosh Jul 25 '20 at 4:53

This is probably because the color in dragon fly wing is due to chitin crystal and which is protected by some secretion over the entire wing something like cuticle upon leaves and when dragon fly dies that secreted substance upon wing washes away when not maintained resulting in shredding off of the color from wing. Sorry I can't comment (<50 reputation) so I did answer even tho im not clear with it.

Try reading this you might find something useful maybe Insect Wing Also this journal said that while studying the wing of dragonflies they killed and kept them in lab it didnt mention that wing lost color Mechanism of the wing colouration in the dragonfly Zenithoptera lanei (Odonata: Libellulidae) and its role in intraspecific communication

So it might be possible that the video shows dragonflies after some long time maybe a week after death and body is intact because of chitin layer but wings bleached away in sun or degraded in environment.

Also wings have supply of veins so something related with continuous production might be cause of that thing too.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Dragonfly wings are usually transparent, or at most have brownish patterns. (At least in the North American species I see flying around - the species in the link is apparently an exception.) It's the body that is often brilliantly colored. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 20 '20 at 4:35
  • $\begingroup$ Oh thanks for the information :) $\endgroup$ – daemon Jul 23 '20 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf here are some bright red wings! Identify these two big, beautiful dragonflies in Taiwan? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Sep 3 '20 at 14:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: Well, I did say usually :-) $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Sep 4 '20 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf yep! But I was so excited to see such deeply pigmented wings I had to tell somebody :-) $\endgroup$ – uhoh Sep 4 '20 at 17:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.