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National Science Foundation
Special Report
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The Secret Lives of Wild
Animals — Home
Ocelot & Agouti
Tracking Technology
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The Secret Lives of Wild Animals — Text-only | Flash Special Report

Tracking Technology
To precisely track the movements of an individual insect, scientists use a miniaturized radio transmitter that attaches to the insect’s body with a combination of eyelash adhesive and superglue. The transmitter signal is detected by a mobile receiver located either in a vehicle or airplane. The system could also be used in conjunction with satellite receivers for global surveillance of small organisms.

The transmitter weighs 0.01 ounces—about the same weight as a paper clip. Even though this is approximately 25 percent of the dragonfly’s total weight, it caused no apparent flight problems.

1. To track individual dragonflies, a miniature transmitter is attached to the underside of their abdomen. Credit: Christian Ziegler
2. A coastal New Jersey dragonfly prepares for takeoff with its newly attached transmitter. The Green Darner is known for its excellent flight capabilities and was seemingly unaffected by the added weight of the transmitter. Credit: Christian Ziegler