Damselflies, especially teneral individuals lacking in colour and full flight capabilities, not infrequently fall prey to asilids, spiders, small birds and other odonates, including fellow zygopterans and conspecifics of near equal size but greater voracity. Dragonflies, by virtue of their superior bulk and speed, face a different class of foes: large robber flies, predatory wasps, swallows, bee-eaters, rollers and agile small raptors are among the few aerial predators with the power and agility to outmanœuvre a mature anisopteran and make a meal out of the devil's darning needle. Early bats might also snare hawkers and crepuscular libellulids as they swarm over marshes to chase down the night's first wave of long-legged flies. Frogs, lizards and insectivorous fish presumably reap their share when a stiff-winged morsel lands within range.
Again, no quarter is given to members of the same order who fail to recognise the danger posed by ravenous kinsmen or suffer the ill fortune of coming across another dragonfly in a period or position of weakness. A few species, such as the aptly named dragonhunter, make a habit out of devouring fellow beastlets of prey. In Indo-Pacific wetlands, the variegated green skimmer is known to be fond of feeding on others of its family, a trait shared by at least two close relatives endemic to Sub-Saharan Africa. Robust in build and rather larger than the average libellulid, Orthetrum sabina is often mistaken by amateurs for a gomphid, a misdeduction aided by its somewhat pronounced terminal segments and markings that resemble those of the older group.
The most abundant clubtail in the region, the common flangetail easily dwarfs its more advanced pretender by about a third. Though at times encountered far from breeding grounds, the latter also maintains a lower profile in suitable habitat, clinging to reeds and low rushes where their dark and grass green pattern offers quite effective camouflage. The gomphid has little need to hide, though, and can usually be spotted clutching the end of a prominent branch from which he surveys his territory for prey and rivals. They are adept at detecting the deliberate approach of large primates, which triggers a vanishing act into invisible trajectories long before one reaches sniping range.
Individuals untroubled by still observers make regular patrols to uphold the integrity of their patch of swamp and harry the occupants of adjacent homesteads who might be tempted to expand their borders. Favouring open water unlike most other gomphids, Ictinogomphus decoratus has prospered from the widespread creation of reservoirs that line suburban parks. A fair number dwell by an artificial lake built at the Maliau Basin Studies Centre, where they dominate the heat of the day before a company of aeshnids stirs the evening shift. Further afield, one tiger frequented a roadside brook where dozens of complex parasols, blue dashers and sapphire flutterers vied for mating rights whenever the sun struck the stream with undiffused strength. Their usual acuity dulled by the demands of courtship, many of these small, shiny dragonflies paid scant attention to the wolf in their midst. It was only a matter of time before a worn suitor or unwary dancer slipped into the grasp of a more primitive killer and ends his days in jaws on wings.