Serpent flies of Enroth – evolution and mimicry

Speculative biology


Serpent flies and their closely related dragon flies are bizarre creatures, resembling a hybrid between a snake and a giant insect. They were relatively unexplored until recently, because of their restricted distribution deep into the swamps of Tatalia. Occasionally used in battle by the Beastmasters, most notably by King Tralossk, they attracted the attention of the scholars of Bracada and soon, several expeditions were sent deep into the Mudlands to explore these creatures. Interestingly, they found two distinct species, not related phylogenetically, but very similar in appearance, which are briefly described in the current paper.

General information

Serpent flies and dragon flies are two similar species of flying insectoids, native to the swamp area of Tatalia on the continent of Antagarich on Enroth. They are known to inhabit hives on large trees, often near large Fortress towns, and generally tolerate Gnolls and Lizardmen. When tamed by a skillful Beastmaster, they can also be used in war campaigns, although relatively weak in battle. The average size of a grown female is up to 1.5 meters in length and approximately the same wing span, much bigger than any known insect, that ever lived on Earth. Taxonomically, they are members of the superorder Odonatoptera (Class Insecta).


Firstly, it was suggested that serpent flies are typical social insects, because of their great concentration inside hives on the large swamp trees in Tatalia. However, it was later revealed, that they lack several important features of typical social insects, including a caste system and cooperative brood care. Instead, these hives actually represent both feeding and breeding grounds. With their highly evolved proboscis, the adult serpent flies feed on the tree sap as their main source of food and also copulate in the same area. The females deposit hundreds of eggs in ootheca directly into the water. The hatching nymphs, the larval stage, are free-living aquatic predators, reaching the same size as the adults. They feed mostly on fish and crustaceans, until ready for metamorphosis, during which stage they crawl out of the water. After the imago is ready to fly out, the remaining exoskeleton or exuviae could stay for years, attached to the tree trunk.

Anatomical features

A typical adult dragon fly, a species slightly different from the serpent fly, is shown in Figure 1A. Although it strongly resembles a typical dragonfly, known on Earth, it is also quite different in several aspects. Similarities include the typical compound eyes, two pairs of wings, and the segmented, chitin-covered body. However, unlike other Odonata, the adult dragon fly of Enroth is not a carnivore and the mouth evolved into a proboscis, very similar to the lepidopteran one. It is a sucking organ, suitable for the absorption of tree sap. The most striking feature of serpent and dragon flies is the almost complete disappearance of the legs. All six of them are reduced to small hooks, used only for attachment to tree branches. The tail ends with several sharp stingers, used for self-defense.

Figure 1. A – common dragon fly (Insecta). B – false dragon fly (Reptilia).

The false serpent flies

Surprisingly, the scholars discovered and described another creature, very similar to the serpent flies (Fig. 1B) and often spotted around the hives. It is a reptile (Class Reptilia), that evolved from lizards, in which the hindlimbs are completely reduced, while the front limbs evolved into a peculiar type of wings. They consist of four highly elongated fingers and two membranes, spread between the second and third, and the fourth and fifth fingers, thus resembling a total of two pairs of wings. Otherwise, the body strongly resembles a true snake, but as said the false serpent fly evolved from a lizard, proven by the modified front limbs. Thus, false serpent flies display a form of mimicry, in order to stay unnoticed near hives and feed on the eggs of the insects.


David Mullich (1999) Heroes of Might and Magic 3. The 3DO Company

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