Meganeuropsis Permiana dragonfly: Largest prehistoric insect


Today we’re going to talk about something that many people despise – insects. We examine the giant dragonfly Meganeuropsis permiana, the largest prehistoric insect discovered.

If you think insects are mean today, you wouldn’t want to be there when these guys roamed the planet.

Biggest insect ever

If you think insects are predators today, this dragonfly would have frightened you. The meganeuripsis is the largest insect ever discovered.

While pterosaurs were notorious for ruling the skies, they weren’t the first flying predators. If you look it up in textbooks you will mention some giant flying creatures. They even lived before the dinosaurs.

Even though they were more primitive than typical dragonflies, they were still scary. They resembled more primitive Meganisoptera, or “grasping flies”.

You would have had to be alive 247 million years ago to see them, because that’s when they died out. They’ve had an impressive run considering they were first discovered 317 million years ago.

Don’t worry. The image above is just a reconstruction.


Meganisoptera is an insect family that we will not see again as they are extinct. However, there are other reasons why we will no longer encounter this predatory, large insect species. We’ll cover the reasons later.

The largest of the family was the Meganeuropsis. The Meganeuriosus Permian existed in the early Permian. Frank Carpenter described their massive remains in 1939. An incomplete wing fossil was found in Elmo, Kansas. It was the piece from which the genus was originally described. Visit the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. You can find the fossil and the one used to describe M.americana.

The calculations were made based on the fossils found. Meganeuropsis was a big one. With a wingspan of 29.5 inches, there’s no way you’d miss flying your way. At the same time, it had a body 18.5 inches long.

It is many times larger than anything you would find today.meganeuropsis_lucas-lima_4x3

How big were beetles in prehistoric times?

It is important to know that the oxygen content was much higher then than it is today. Higher oxygen levels meant much larger insects could fly.

Oxygen levels are about 21% today, while they peaked at about 35% in the Carboniferous Period. The influx of massive concentrations of oxygen allowed invertebrates to reach sizes we would never have seen today.

Ancient bugs really roamed the earth, with dragonflies being one of the creatures. For a long time it was a mystery how predatory dragonflies could reach the size of modern gulls.

It is generally accepted that an excess of oxygen is what caused them to grow so large. However, they also had to get that big, otherwise they would probably suffer from oxygen poisoning.

Even worse, dragonflies weren’t the only animals to reach these insane sizes. Can you imagine coming home and seeing cockroaches that were even bigger than the ones we have today?

Larger sizes meant less oxygen was absorbed.

meganeuropsis-eating cockroach_lucas-lima_3x4

Perhaps these insects grew so large out of necessity. Animals and humans can be poisoned if given too much oxygen. Because larvae get much of their oxygen through their skin, it would have been a race to grow large as quickly as possible.

A larger size would have meant a relatively smaller surface area compared to their overall size. It would have meant that the danger of high oxygen levels for larger animals would have been reduced. Without the ability to regulate oxygen uptake in the early stages of life, growth was simply a defense mechanism.

Getting bigger meant a reduction in surface area relative to total volume. Eventually the oxygen levels began to drop again. However, the size of the insects did not follow immediately. They could probably stay alive for a while. However, the lower oxygen levels meant they struggled to get the energy they needed. As a result, they would become sluggish and eventually underperform smaller, more efficient predators.

Dragonfly fossils

The fossils were originally discovered by Stephanian Coal Measures of Commentry in 1880. The name “Meganeura” means big-eyed, which is exactly what they were. The insect’s wings had a vast network of veins spread across them.

Derbyshire is another place where such a fossil has been found. Surprisingly, this happened only in 1979 in the city of Bolsover.

lack of predators

Due to the higher oxygen content, other animals were also large. However, there was a lack of predators to hunt these meganeurids. Bechly pointed out that a lack of predators is another likely explanation for their size, particularly in aerial vertebrates.

How long have dragonflies been around?

Cockroaches are known to have survived for centuries. While most of us probably would have wished these creatures gone for good centuries before we came into being, this simply isn’t the case. However, dragonflies are another species of insect that has been around for a long time.

Dragonflies are believed to have originated around 350 million years ago. It was long before the earliest dinosaurs. Dragonflies are even older than cockroaches.

Even crazier, this group of flying animals predates most other flying creatures we know today. There are a few exceptions, including:silverfish

  • silverfish
  • diplural
  • springtails
  • It’s a counterattack

However, these are all very primitive species. There’s a reason we’re so fascinated by dragonflies. Many of us are fascinated by the ability to levitate in the air at a fixed point. These insects can fly in any direction you want, like a helicopter. In addition, they have an impeccable vision.

Evolution of Dragonflies

Despite their size changes, these creatures have not changed significantly from their ancestors. With the ability to have a 360-degree field of vision through their 30,000 individual eyes called ommatidia, they are an impressive species. It gives them a much better defense against predators that want to take them on.

Big or scary prehistoric insects

The Meganeuropsis Permiana wasn’t the only large prehistoric insect out there. There have been many other cases you don’t want to wake up to in your bed.

If kitchen ants or fruit flies worry you, these creatures will scare you.

Manipulator modifier

Manipulator Modificaputis was a prehistoric predatory cockroach. Horror novelists couldn’t make this stuff up. Cockroaches are as disgusting as they are now, but the Modificaputis manipulator was worse.

Fortunately, we are past the Cenomanian period in which they used to live.

Monster centipede

Did you know the monster millipede was up to 8.6 feet long? With that came his impressive weight of 110 pounds. They seemed to have legs forever. It was the largest known terrestrial invertebrate and coexisted with the Meganeuropsis Permianas during the Carboniferous Period.

As arthropods, they would have many similarities to scorpions and lobsters.

Imagine one of these animals walking across your kitchen floor.

Kaekelopterus Rhineland

It was a huge scorpion swimming around pinching other animals. In fact, the scorpion grew up to 8 feet. It would have been scary to encounter the sea scorpion on a morning swim. It is believed to have preferred swamps and estuaries.

Dragonfly interesting facts

We already know that these creatures are prehistoric, but there are many other interesting facts about dragonflies.

Did you know that they start life swimming rather than flying? Yes, they start out as underwater eggs. They hatch and spend a long time underwater while growing to their adult size.

They are also widely touted as one of the best hunters out there, often compared to sharks and lions in skill.

We love having these animals around as they feed on mosquitoes. Keep chewing, little boys! If you eat up to 100 mosquitoes a day, that’s a lot of mosquito bites you don’t get.


Do dragonflies bite?

Good to know you probably won’t be bitten by a dragonfly. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t bite when they have to. Biting is a form of self-defense for the dragonfly, so make sure our little friends don’t feel threatened.

How big can dragonflies get?

With wingspans typically up to 5 inches, these modern fliers can be quite large. However, it depends on the type. It is just as well that we are no longer exposed to their prehistoric predecessors.

What is the largest dragonfly alive today?

The megaloprepus. With a wingspan of up to 7.5 inches, they are the largest dragonflies alive today. They are found in humid forests in South America and Central America. They are the world’s largest dragonfly today, while the Meganeuropsis permiana was the largest dragonfly and insect that ever lived. These winged insects are still impressive. Megaloprepus

Did dragonflies predate dinosaurs?

Yes, dragonflies lived before dinosaurs. They were massive too. We know they existed during the Paleozoic, which began 541 million years ago and ended 252 years ago. How do we know?

These insects were found in layers of sedimentary rock beneath dinosaurs. It means they existed before dinosaurs existed. It is generally accepted that dinosaurs appeared around 231 million years ago. However, that wasn’t the time when the largest dinosaurs began, 199 million years ago. On the other hand, there is evidence that dragonflies have existed for 350 million years, when they first appeared during the Carboniferous period. Still, it’s impressive that they survived and are still around today, albeit much smaller.