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The thorax musculature of Anisoptera (Insecta: Odonata) nymphs and its evolutionary relevance

Sebastian Büsse* and Thomas Hörnschemeyer

Author Affiliations

Department of Morphology, Systematic & Evolutionary Biology, J-F-Blumenbach Institute for Zoology & Anthropology, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:237  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-237

Published: 1 November 2013



Among the winged insects (Pterygota) the Odonata (dragon- and damselflies) are special for several reasons. They are strictly aerial predators showing remarkable flight abilities and their thorax morphology differs significantly from that of other Pterygota in terms of the arrangement and number of muscles. Even within one individual the musculature is significantly different between the nymphal and adult stage.


Here we present a comparative morphological investigation of the thoracic musculature of dragonfly (Anisoptera) nymphs. We investigated representatives of the Libellulidae, Aeshnidae and Cordulegasteridae and found 71 muscles: 19 muscles in the prothorax, 26 in the mesothorax and 27 in the metathorax. Nine of these muscles were previously unknown in Odonata, and for seven muscles no homologous muscles could be identified in the neopteran thorax.


Our results support and extend the homology hypotheses for the thoracic musculatures of Odonata and Neoptera, thus supplementing our understanding of the evolution of Pterygota and providing additional characters for phylogenetic analyses comprising all subgroups of Pterygota.

Dragonflies; Homology with Neoptera (Insecta); Odonata nymphs; Musculature; Insect flight apparatus; Homologization scheme