and see text
Odonata is an order of insects, encompassing dragonflies (Anisoptera) and damselflies (Zygoptera). The word dragonfly is also sometimes used to refer to all Odonata, but the back-formation odonate is a more correct English name for the group as a whole. Odonata enthusiasts avoid ambiguity by using the term true dragonfly, or simply Anisopteran, when referring to just the Anisoptera.
The largest living odonates are the giant Central American damselfly Megaloprepus coerulatus, and the Giant Hawaiian Darner (Anax strenuus), a dragonfly endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. The prehistoric "giant dragonflies" belonged to the Protodonata (or Meganisoptera), closely related to true dragonflies but not part of the Odonata in the restricted sense.
Fabricius coined the term Odonata from the Greek οδόντoς (οδούς), odontos (tooth) apparently because they have teeth on their mandibles, even though most insects also have toothed mandibles.
Systematics and taxonomy
This order has traditionally been grouped together with the mayflies and several extinct orders in a group called the "Paleoptera", but this grouping appears to be paraphyletic. What they do share with mayflies is the nature of how the wings are articulated and controlled (see insect flight for a detailed discussion).
In some treatments, the Odonata are understood in an expanded sense, essentially synonymous with the superorder Odonatoptera but not including the prehistoric Protodonata. In this approach, instead of Odonatoptera, the term Odonatoidea is used. The systematics of the "Palaeoptera" are by no means resolved; what can be said however is that regardless of whether they are called "Odonatoidea" or "Odonatoptera", the Odonata and their extinct relatives do form a clade.
Full article ▸