The emperor dragonfly is one of the largest species of dragonfly found in Europe with their range also covering Africa and Asia. With their four large wings they are able to fly backwards, up and down or hover giving them the ability to manoeuvre well in the air. This helps them to catch their prey of insects which are caught in the air and eaten while in flight. At birth the young are larvae which spend the first year or two of life in a body of water. They will then moult their exoskeleton and turn in to the adult dragonfly before flying away.
Their large compound eyes are formed from multiple optical units known as ommatidia. As many as 60,000 units may make up the eye giving them sight similar to ours but without the same definition. The eyes are adapted for sight at short-distances. These are green or blue in colour. Protruding from the body are four wings which appear to be transparent with thin, black lines criss-crossing them. Each of these wings is attached by a separate muscle which gives them a large range of movement. An average emperor dragonfly will measure 8cm long and have a wingspan of 10.6cm across. Emperor dragonflies are carnivores. They feed on invertebrates such as butterflies and tadpoles. These animals may also feed on smaller species of dragonfly. The larvae feed on small pondlife. If they capture small prey it may be eaten while in flight. When capturing prey in flight they will form a basket with their legs to hold the food. They make their home near water courses such as ponds, lakes, canals and rivers. These are typically large bodies of water with large amounts of vegetation. While primarily found in freshwater they have shown a tolerance for brackish water.
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