Dragonflies perform ‘upside down backflips’ to right themselves — even while unconscious, research reveals

Insects’ innate orientation mechanisms could inspire aircraft design improvements, writes Harry Cockburn

Wednesday 10 February 2021 20:41
A common darter dragonfly. Why roll when you can somersault?
A common darter dragonfly. Why roll when you can somersault?

What happens if a dragonfly gets blown upside down while in flight? Well, instead of barrelling over so it is the right way up again, they instead take the opportunity to perform “upside down backflips” to regain their balance and reorient themselves, according to new research.

Dragonflies are already recognised as being capable of complex aerial manoeuvres, and are able to glide, fly backwards and travel up to 54kph (34mph). 

But while many land-based animals such as cats, and flying insects such as hoverflies, rotate themselves around a head-tail axis when righting themselves when falling, little is known about how most insects regain their orientations.

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