Owlflies

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Barking owl (Ninox connivens) from NT, Australia. Owlflies get their common name from the resemblance of their enlarged circular eyes to owls.
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Typical neuropteran eyeshine in an owlfly from central Texas

Many owlflies (Neuroptera: Ascalaphidae) have bipartite eyes with a dorso-frontal region that is UV-sensitive and a ventro-lateral region with high sensitivity to blue-green wavelengths. This highly specialized eye morphology allows them to have heightened contrast perception of small flying insect prey while retaining high spatial resolution in both clear and cloudy sky conditions. Although they are not as maneuverable as dragonflies since their wings move synchronously (pairs on each side of the body are physiologically coupled), they are effective aerial hunters. Some even adopt a resting posture with their wings spread out, superficially resembling a dragonfly. I have never seen an adult owlfly hunt (or even a picture of one with prey actually).

Rainbow colors reflected in the ommatidia is a characteristic of the family Neuroptera. Taking these macro shots (especially the second one) was really challenging in the windy conditions at dusk. While photographing this one it constantly rotated around the twig out of view, much like a frilly.

All photographs in this post taken in situ [1]

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Bipartite compound eyes in an owlfly from central Texas
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Crooked antennae in an owlfly from Rinca island, Indonesia
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Owlfly larvae are also predators, like a free-roaming antlion without the need of a pit. They are cryptic and sit with their jaws agape, ready to ambush unsuspecting prey that strolls by. See my earlier post about the phalanx formation in owlfly larvae. Pictured: Owlfly larvae from NT, Australia
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I was fortunate to see the larvae in a cluster. Beforehand I had seen the adults ovipositing in a spiral pattern. See my post about this behavior here.
I was fortunate to see the larvae in a cluster. Beforehand I had seen the adults ovipositing in a spiral pattern. See my post about this behavior here. Pictured: Suhpalacsa sp. from NT, Australia. Note the blood-sucking flies on the wings.

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