Female dragonflies will fake their own deaths to prevent male dragonflies from bothering them for sex, according to Newsweek. Females will fall from the sky and lie still on the ground until the male leaves.
This study by Rassim Khelifa, a zoologist from the University of Zurich, shows the first case of an odonate (carnivorous insects) faking death as a way to avoid a mate. Even among animals in general, this is a rare tactic.
On July 5, 2015 Khelifa wrote “I witnessed a dragonﬂy dive to the ground while being pursued by another dragonﬂy... the individual that crashed was a female, and that she was lying motionless and upside down on the ground.” Khelifa was then surprised when, after the male left, the female flew away as well. Khelifa documented dozens of similar cases over the next few months.
He found that the more male competition existed, the more likely female dragonflies would be to fake their deaths. Females crashed to the ground in 86% of cases. Those dragonflies that kept flying were always intercepted by a male. 77.7% of the dragonflies who faked their deaths “were successful in deceiving the coercive male.”
Faking death appears to be helpful in allowing females to survive longer and produce more offspring. “Sexual death feigning is one of the rarest behaviors in nature, and due to its scarcity, it has received little attention in behavioral ecology,” the study said. Khelifa wonders whether the behavior is actually scarce, or if it is simply a difficult behavior to detect.