A nature programme isn’t usually high on my tv viewing priority list (I’m much more interested in people) but a few weeks ago there was a slow tv night and it seemed pretty much the best thing on.
As if aware of his reluctant viewers, the presenter attracted my interest with his sensational claim that “dragonflies can stop time”. This claim that one of the World’s bugs had been endowed with Doctor Who-esquire super powers certainly piqued my curiosity. Of course it was quickly revealed that dragonflies can’t actually stop time, but what they can do is equally as fascinating. They see more.
A dragonfly’s World is as chaotic as our own. They are affronted by innumerable fast moving prey just as we are constantly bombarded by terabytes of data. It’s difficult to tell amongst the chaos what is important and what is not. Despite their downfalls, dragonflies could be light years ahead of us in evolutionary terms, in this respect at least.
The dragonfly’s ability to carefully select the right morsel to pursue via it’s powers of observation was aptly demonstrated by the nature presenter. As the dragonfly was apparently resting, stock still on it’s leaf, a pea shooter was fired across it’s field of vision. The speed of the pea, and the dragonfly’s reaction could not be seen by the human eye because it was too fast. But on slowing the film down, the dragonflies imperceptible assessment of the pea, and it’s decision not to pursue it as food, is clearly visible.
Dragonflies can see more than twenty times faster than humans, meaning in our terms they can see, and react, in slow motion. Their colour vision has also adapted, and they see their prey very darkly against an extra bright sky.
While we will probably never adapt to see as well as a dragonfly, we often forget about the powers of observation we do have. The dragonflies of the human sphere can be observed in workplaces everywhere. However, they are few. Their powers of assessing, looking, stopping and thinking are often overlooked by the office flies who buzz from interesting object to interesting object without seeing the bigger picture. So don’t dismiss that dragonfly as quiet or lazy. There’s much going on that can’t be observed by the human eye. Perhaps we all need to take a leaf out of their book and be more dragonfly.