THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DRAGONFLY NAME “ODONATA”

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Abstract:

The name “Odonata” was first applied to the dragonflies by Fabricius (1793) to designate the insects belonging to the fifth “Classis” in his system of classification. Entomologists since the time of Fabricius have apparently been more or less puzzled as to why he chose this term “Odonata” for the dragonflies. ancl several suggestions have been offered to explain it. Calvert (1893) in a footnote states, “Greek ’ooυ, oυo (odnus, odontos), a tooth, referring presumably to the toothed mandibles.” Tillyard in his work “The Biology of the Dragonflies” (1917) explains, “Fabricius, in re-arranging the Orders of Insects by the structure of the mouth-parts, constituted the Dragonflies as a separate order under the name Odonata, because of the form of their mandibles. (Greek oυ, a tooth, stem oυ—. The word should therefore more correctly be Odontata).” Comstock in his “Introduction to Entomology” (1924) is even more puzzled; “The name of this order is evidently from the Greek word oυ, a tooth; but the reason for applying it to these insects is obscure; it may refer to the tusk-like form of the abdomen.” Other authors either repeat Calvert's explanation or ignore the meaning of the word entirely. None of these explanations is satisfactory; the mandibles of most insects are toothed and a name indicating “toothed mandibles” is no more significant of dragonflies than it would be of beetles or grasshoppers. The alternative explanation with regard to the abdomen is too far-fetched to warrant consideration.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 1934

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  • Annals of the Entomological Society of America is published in January, March, May, July, September, and November. Annals especially invites submission of manuscripts that integrate different areas of insect biology, and address issues that are likely to be of broad relevance to entomologists. Articles also report on basic aspects of the biology of arthropods, divided into categories by subject matter: systematics; ecology and population biology; arthropod biology; arthropods in relation to plant diseases; conservation biology and biodiversity; physiology, biochemistry, and toxicology; morphology, histology, and fine structure; genetics; and behavior.
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