Produced by the Population Genetics and Evolution class, Furman University

The Carboniferous: Meganeura
Meganeura were dragonfly-like insects with a huge wingspan of about 70 centimeters, or 2.5 feet (Allaby & Allaby 1999). Their large size was thought to be due to an increased oxygen content in the atmosphere during the time period in which they existed, however this is still being debated (Agaric 2007). The genus Meganeura includes the largest known flying insect, Meganeura monyi. These insects lived near the edge of bodies of water, such as streams and ponds. They were carnivores, and mainly ate insects and small amphibians and vertebrates using their long spine-covered legs to grab and hold their prey. Meganeura are actually classified as griffinflies as opposed to dragonflies due to several characteristic differences. The first difference is due to the vein patterns of the insects. Meganeura actually means “large veins”, and they contain similar vein patterns in their wings, whereas dragonflies have varying patterns (Anissimov 2003). Another difference is that Meganeura have a large number of appendages at the end of their abdomen. The purpose of these appendages is not known for sure, but it is possible that Meganeura used them for mating, laying eggs, or for anchoring (Agaric 2007). Also, these insects were also probably slower than dragonflies due to their large size (Anissimov 2003).

Page by Lindsay Gerzel

Meganeura. Photo From: Agaric. 2007.

Agaric. 2007. Meganeura: giant carboniferous dragonfly. Associated Context. Accessed March 3, 2010.

Allaby A, Allaby M. 1999. Meganeura. A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. Accessed March 3, 2010.

Anissimov M. 2003. What is Meganeura? Wise Geek. Accessed March 3, 2010.