Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Fifth-grade student contributes rare dragonfly

KINGSVILLE - October 20, 2006

Contact: Jason Marton
jason.marton@tamuk.edu or 361-593-4143

dragon fly tour
Miranda Salinas holds her dragonfly find in front of a white paper held by Dr. Glenn Perrigo. Heidi Langschied stands to the left of Perrigo, and teacher Jessica Hester is at right. Hester’s class stands around them, on their visit to A&M-Kingsville.

When fifth grader Miranda Salinas found a dragonfly in her garage, she knew it was something worth taking to science class at Santa Gertrudis Elementary School and showing to her teacher, Jessica Hester. She also knew fellow student Heidi Langschied, a dragonfly admirer, would be impressed.

Little did Miranda know that Heidi’s father, Tom Langschied, a research scientist with the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, is an even bigger dragonfly fan.

“I was in my car in the parking lot talking to someone, when my daughter brought out a dragonfly in a plastic case,” said Langschied. “I took a glance, expecting something common, and thought it was, at first. I took another look, though, and realized what it was.”

The insect was a rare Amazon Darner dragonfly (Anax amazili), found in tropical wetlands. According to Langschied, it was the first of its kind to ever be found in Kleberg County. “I’d only seen one before this, in the Rio Grande Valley. I’ve been looking for it in Kleberg County for a long time.”

“I was so surprised,” said Salinas, when she found out more about her find.

With the dragonfly being kept in the classroom, Langschied gave a presentation on the insects, with special attention paid to Miranda’s unique find.

Tom Langschied told the group that, to properly preserve the Amazon Darner, they should contribute it to the extensive arthropod collection at Texas A&M University-Kingsville or send it to a collection at another university. The majority of the class voted to keep the find in Kingsville. The class visited the campus and presented the dragonfly to Dr. Glenn H. Perrigo, professor and chair of the biology department.          

The Texas A&M-Kingsville collection began as the lifelong work of professor emeritus James Gillaspy, who gathered thousands of specimens from South Texas and Tamaulipas.   According to Perrigo, the collection is such a detailed one that additions to it are rare and extraordinary events.

A complete collection of biodiversity is one of the goals of any collection, said Perrigo.  “Collections document range expansions and population changes and provide an authoritative resource for scientist and lay person alike for identifying a species. With thousands of insects, no field guide can cover all potential identifications, whereas a well-maintained professional collection can provide priceless hands-on knowledge for researchers and students alike.”

Miranda said she was excited about her dragonfly being kept at A&M-Kingsville, and thought the campus visit was the best part of the experience.

Perrigo organized the students’ A&M-Kingsville trip with an agenda that included viewing the insect collection, the Glick Butterfly Collection, the Merrit Egg Collection (on loan from the Conner Museum), the South Texas Herbarium, the South Texas Fossil Collection and
vertebrate collections, featuring hundreds of reptiles, amphibians, fish, mammals and birds.

Miranda and Hester said they especially want to thank Perrigo and Tom Langschied for all that they did. Hester added that Langschied has given his time to the class before, speaking to them about his research work with birds. She said that the biology faculty were just as accommodating and welcoming during the class tour, too.

“I think this whole experience has been a memorable one that will have a positive impact on these children and will follow them throughout their whole lives,” said Hester.
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