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Originally published in Creation 16, no 1 (December 1993): 20-23.
The dragonfly’s marvellous ability to dart sideways, upwards, hover, and instantly change direction, is due to impressive design features.
The creature has two sets of many-veined, long, rigid wings which beat alternately. (When one set is up, the other is down.) This gives it excellent aerodynamic efficiency, and the independent operation of each wing provides precise flight control. The wings beat 1,600 or more times a minute.
Not surprisingly, the muscles which operate a dragonfly’s wings comprise about one-quarter of its total weight. These powerful synchronized wings can propel the insect at speeds estimated at 50 kilometres an hour (30 miles per hour) or more, sometimes for long distances. Dragonflies have been known to migrate more than 300 kilometres across water.
Just as amazing as the dragonfly’s flying ability are its two large eyes. Though these may make the insect a little scary to look at, they are a marvel of intricate design by the Creator.
The surface of each eyeball is faceted with up to 30,000 individual ‘eyes’ called ommatidia. Each of these units combines a surface lens with an internal cone-shaped crystalline lens and scans a narrow field of view. These scanners simultaneously feed data into the brain of the insect, thus giving the dragonfly multi-image vision and super-sensitive motion detection. Moving objects pass from the view of one lens to another.
The dragonfly’s ability to rotate its head gives the insect almost 360-degree vision. It can see moving objects up to 40 metres (44 yards) away—a long distance for such a small creature.
During its aquatic early life as a nymph, the dragonfly has the ability to use water drawn into its gills as a form of jet propulsion if alarmed. Water used for breathing can be expelled in a jet which drives the nymph forward, rocket-style, for several inches.
Later in its life the insect goes through a remarkable transformation from a water-breathing creature (with gills) into the beautifully coloured air-breathing dragonfly with which we are familiar. If it were held under water in the adult stage it would drown.
On the evolutionists’ time-scale, dragonflies first appear in the fossil record in the Carboniferous Period (‘300 million years ago’), before flowering plants or dinosaurs. By evolutionists’ own admission, dragonflies have not changed much in that ‘long time’.
In fact, the only significant change today seems to be their reduced size. Some fossil dragonflies have a wingspan measuring up to 70 centimetres (28 inches). Today the largest is about 19 centimetres (7½ inches) and many are considerably smaller.
Evolutionists are somewhat puzzled that dragonflies could have survived unchanged for 300 million years. One writes: ‘Dragonflies have evolved without much alteration during this enormous period of time—a triumph of evolutionary conservatism in a world where change is usually synonomous with survival.’1
We see remarkable complexity in the dragonfly, which appears fully formed ‘300 million years’ ago by the estimation of those who believe in evolution.Not only is their unchanged survival a problem for the evolution model, but evolution is believed to proceed from simple forms of life to complex forms of life over millions of years. Yet we see remarkable complexity in the dragonfly, which appears fully formed ‘300 million years’ ago by the estimation of those who believe in evolution.
For a young-earth (under 10,000 years) creationist, none of these facts is a problem. Genesis chapter one tells us that God created all living creatures to reproduce according to their ‘kind’. We often see variation within a kind, as in the case of the dragonfly. But of the 5,000 dragonfly species known today, all are clearly dragonflies, and the fossil record testifies to the fact of ‘no dragon-fly evolution’.
Some fossil dragonflies are very large, but only their smaller descendants exist in our present time.
The dragonfly is yet another example of how the facts fit the creation record of Genesis better than they fit the theory of evolution. Their marvellous design clearly points to the Creator.