Dragonflies: Engineered to See More Than You Might Think

From Issue: Discovery 4/1/2015

Have you ever played in front of the automatic doors at a store, seeing how close you can get to the doors before they open, or seeing if you can move so slowly that they never open or notice that you are there? Those are fun games, but have you ever thought about why the doors work that way? They have a special detector or sensor, kind of like a special camera (a motion detector), that “watches” for movement close to the doors. There are many kinds of sensors that engineers have designed—thermal sensors (that detect heat), acoustic sensors (that detect sound vibrations), pressure sensors, light sensors, magnetometers (that detect magnetic fields), and many others. Sensors are always designed by someone.

Amazingly, scientists have discovered that dragonflies are equipped with a fascinating sensor called a horizon sensor. As dragonflies move through the air with their amazing speed and ability to turn quickly, they need some way to tell whether they are angled the right way. To do this, they use three special, little eyes called ocelli (oh-SELL-eye). These are not their regular (compound) eyes that they use to see. Ocelli watch the horizon (the line between the Earth and the sky that you can see miles away from you) in order to make sure dragonflies are positioned or oriented the way they want to be. Does that sound like something that would just accidentally grow on a dragonfly one day? Or does it sound like it was intentionally designed by Someone?

As proof that it was designed, think about this. Engineers are so amazed by the design of the dragonfly’s ocelli that they are now trying to copy ocelli design for use on their own designs, which they call biomorphic (bye-oh-MORF-ic) ocelli. Why would some of the greatest engineering minds of the world try to copy something that was the result of accidents? It makes more sense that the amazing ocelli of the dragonfly were designed by an even more amazing Engineer—God. Just as a building requires a builder, design requires a designer (Hebrews 3:4).


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