ScienceShot: Headless Dragonfly Trapped in Time

Unknown noses. Once believed to lack a sense of smell, dragonflies and damselflies, such as Ischnura elegans (pictured), possess olfactory bulbs in their antennae that may help them track prey.

Unknown noses. Once believed to lack a sense of smell, dragonflies and damselflies, such as Ischnura elegans (pictured), possess olfactory bulbs in their antennae that may help them track prey.

Manuela Rebora

Just in time for Halloween comes this gruesome tale. About 100 million years ago in a forest in Myanmar, a dragonfly lost its head to a hungry lizard. But the lizard didn't get away. The ghoulish moment—decapitated dragonfly and parts of the fleeing lizard—were captured and entombed in sticky tree sap, says George Poinar, a paleontologist at Oregon State University, Corvallis, who describes this last meal in the December issue of Palaeodiversity. Poinar discovered the two animals preserved together in a golden piece of amber. The dragonfly (top)—which represents a new sub-family, Paleodisparoneurinae—is nearly intact, aside from its head. But only the foot and tail of the hungry lizard remain (bottom). "It probably had the dragonfly's head in its mouth," says Poinar. Both died, one as dinner, and one as a prisoner of its appetite.

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