Common Whitetail

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Common Whitetail
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CommonWhitetail.jpg



Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Arthropoda
Class:Hexapoda
Order:Odonata
Suborder:Anisoptera
Family:Libellulidae
Genus:Libellula
Species:L. lydia
Binomial name
Libellula lydia
(Drury, 1770)

The Common Whitetail or Long-tailed Skimmer, Libellulus lydia is a common dragonfly across much of North America, with a striking and unusual appearance. The male's chunky white body (about 5cm long), combined with the brownish-black bands on its otherwise translucent wings, give it a checkered look. Females have a brown body, and are less noticeable, though they have a similar wing pattern.

The Common Whitetail can be seen hawking for mosquitoes and other small flying insects over ponds, marshes, and slow-moving rivers in most regions except the higher mountain regions. Periods of activity vary between regions; for example in California, the adults are active from April to September.

Like all perchers, Common Whitetails often rest on objects near the water, and sometimes on the ground. Males are territorial, holding a 10 to 30 metre stretch of the water's edge, and patrolling it to drive off other males.

The nymphs are dark green or brown, but are usually found covered in algae. The feed on aquatic invertebrates such as mayfly larvae and small crayfish, and also on small aquatic vertebrates such as tadpoles and minnows. Because of their abundance, whitetail naiads are in turn an important food source for various fish, frogs, and birds, and also for other aquatic insects.

Some authorities classify the whitetails, including the Common Whitetail, in genus Plathemis rather than Libellula. This matter has been debated at least since the end of the nineteenth century. Recent molecular systematics evidence suggests that separation of the whitetails from the rest of Libellula may be appropriate.

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