World's Longest-Distance Flier Is Identified
Tiny dragonfly covers 4.4K miles between continents
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2016 9:10 AM CST
The Monarch butterfly has nothing on this guy.   (Greg Lasley)

(Newser) – The world's longest-distance flier is a fly—a dragonfly to be exact. That's what scientists at Rutgers University-Newark claim in a new genetic study of Pantala flavescens, also known as the wandering glider, per Discovery News. Populations of the dragonfly, which is only 1.5 inches long, have been found on every continent except Antarctica, but all have similar genetic profiles, reports Newsweek. They're actually so similar that researchers say they're likely traveling across huge distances—more than 4,400 miles—and breeding with each other. Monarch butterflies were previously thought to be the longest migrating insects, fluttering 2,500 miles one way across North America. Pantala not only crushes that record, but is in "competition with whales and birds for being the longest migrators," says study author Jessica Ware.

"If North American Pantala only bred with North American Pantala, and Japanese Pantala only bred with Japanese Pantala, we would expect to see that in genetic results that differed from each other," Ware adds in a release. "Because we don't see that, it suggests the mixing of genes across vast geographic expanses." The dragonflies seem built for the journey with "increased surface areas on their wings that enable them to use the wind to carry them," Ware says. "They stroke, stroke, stroke, and then glide for long periods, expending minimal amounts of energy." It is a "kind of suicide mission," but the insects make the trek to escape dry seasons because they need freshwater to lay eggs. In fact, when a dragonfly spots freshwater, it will often lay eggs, wait for them to hatch, then resume its journey with its offspring in tow. (This tiny songbird also crosses an ocean.)