Michael L. May

Photo of Michael L. May.

Email: may@sebs.rutgers.edu


The principal focus of much of my current research is on the taxonomy and phylogeny of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) and the implications of phylogeny for interpretation of the evolution of morphology and behavior of these remarkable insects. On a regional level, I maintain a strong interest in the distribution and conservation of dragonflies in North America, and in New Jersey particularly.

I am also studying migratory behavior of dragonflies, especially the common green darner and am currently or have recently collaborated with colleagues at Princeton University, the University of Texas, and the Open University (UK) on this research. I continue longstanding investigations of body temperature regulation in dragonflies and the influence of energy exchange on the performance and evolution of behavior in these insects.

Finally, I have recently embarked on a collaborative project with Dr. J.M Hartman (Rutgers) to develop biodiversity assessment techniques for forested floodplain wetlands in New Jersey. My portion of this project examines litter macroinvertebrate diversity and abundance in these habitats.

Students working in my lab are engaged in research on systematics of dragonflies and of dung beetles and on the community ecology and conservation of mantids in South Africa.

Research Projects and Grants

  • Systematics, phylogeny, and character evolution in Odonata (supported by NSF DEB-0423834 , Higher Level Phylogeny of Odonata (Insecta): Molecules, Morphology, Ecology, and Behavior, with Karl M. Kjer (PI) and Frank L. Carle (Co=PI); and by NJAES Project 08190, Phylogeny, Biodiversity and Character Evolution of Odonata.).
  • Biodiversity assessment of macroinvertebrates in forested floodplain wetlands (supported by NJDEP Grant, Wetlands Biological Indicators for New Jersey, with J. M. Hartman).
  • Migration of dragonflies in North America.
  • Distribution and conservation of New Jersey Odonata.
  • Ecology and physiology of energy exchange and body temperature in Odonata.


  • Corbet, P. S., and M. L. May 2008 Fliers and perchers among Odonata: dichotomy or multidimensional continuum? A provisional reappraisal. Int. J. Odonatology 11: 155-171.
  • Carle F. L., K. M. Kjer, and M. L. May 2008 Evolution of Odonata, with special reference to Coenagrionoidea (Zygoptera). Arthropod Systematics & Phylogeny. 66: 37-44.
  • May M. L. and S. W. Dunkle 2007 Damselflies of North America, Color Supplement. Scientific Publishers, Gainesville, FL. 165 pp.
  • Ware, J., M. L. May and K. M. Kjer 2007 Phylogeny of the higher Libelluloidea (Anisoptera: Odonata): an exploration of the relationships within the most speciose superfamily of dragonflies. Mol. Phylog. Evol. 45: 289-310.
  • Westfall, M. J. and M. L. May 2006 Damselflies of North American, Revised Edition. Scientific Publishers, Gainesville, FL. 503 pp.
  • Wikelski, M. D. Moskowitz, J. S. Adelman, J. Cochran, D. S. Wilcove and M. L. May 2006 Simple rules guide dragonfly migration. Biol. Lett. 2: 325-329.
  • May, M. L. and F. L. Carle. 2005 Pamita hannahdaltonae gen. nov., sp. nov. from Baltic amber (Odonata: Amphipterygida). Int. J. Odonatology 8: 213-221.
  • Stoks, R., J. L. Nystrom, M. L. May and M. A. McPeek 2005 Parallel evolution in ecological and reproductive traits to produce cryptic damselfly species across the holarctic. Evolution 59: 1976-1988.
  • Baird, J. M., and M. L. May. 2003. Fights at the dinner table: agonistic behavior in Pachydiplax longipennis (Odonata: Libellulidae) at feeding sites. J. Ins. Behav. 16:189-216.
  • Freeland, J., M. L. May, R. Lodge, and K. F. Conrad, 2003. Genetic diversity and widespread haplotypes in a migratory dragonfly, the common green darner (Anax junius). Ecol. Entomol. 28:413-421.
  • O'Grady, E. W., and M. L. May, 2003. A phylogenetic reassessment of the subfamilies of Coenagrionidae (Odonata: Zygoptera). J. Nat. Hist. 37:2807-2835.
  • May, M. L., 2002. Phylogeny and taxonomy of the damselfly genus Enallagma and related taxa (Odonata: Zygoptera: Coenagrionidae. Systematic Entomology 27:387-408.
  • May, M. L., and J. M Baird, 2002. A comparison of foraging behavior in two ""percher" dragonflies, Pachydiplax longipennis and Erythemis simplicicollis (Odonata: Libellulidae). J. Ins. Behav., 15:765-778.
  • Needham, J. G., M. J. Westfall, and M. L. May. 2000. A Manual of the Dragonflies of North America. Gainesville, FL, Scientific Publishers, 940 pp.
  • Brown, J. M., M. A. McPeek, and M. L. May. 2000. A phylogenetic perspective on habitat shifts and diversity in the North American Enallagma damselflies. Syst. Biol. 49:697-712.
  • Russell, R. W., M. L. May, K. L. Soltesz, and J. W. Fitzpatrick. 1998. Massive swarm migrations of dragonflies (Odonata) in eastern North America. Am. Midl. Nat. 140:325-342.
  • May, M. L. 1998. Macrothemis fallax, a new species of dragonfly from Central America (Anisoptera: Libellulidae), with a key to male Macrothemis. Int. J. Odonatology 1:137-153.
  • May, M. L. 1998. Body temperature regulation in a late-season dragonfly, Sympetrum vicinum (Odonata: Libellulidae). Int. J. Odonatology 1:1-13.
  • Baird, J. M., and M. L. May. 1997. Foraging behavior of Pachydiplax longipennis (Odonata: Libellulidae). J. Ins. Behav. 10, 655-678.
  • May, M. L. 1997. The status of some species of Enallagma (Zygoptera: Coenagrionidae). Ent. News 108, 77-91.
  • May, M.L. and F. L. Carle 1996. An annotated list of the Odonata of New Jersey. Bulletin of American Odonatology 4: 1-35.
  • Westfall, M. J., and M. L. May. 1996. Damselflies of North America. Gainesville, Fl. Scientific Publishers, 649 pp.
  • May, M.L. 1995. Simultaneous control of head and thoracic temperature by the common green darner dragonfly Anax junius (Odonata: Aeshnidae). Journal of Experimental Biology 198: 2373-2384.
  • May, M.L. 1995. Dependence of flight behavior and heat production on air temperature in the green garner dragonfly Anax junius (Odonata: Aeshnidae). Journal of Experimental Biology 198: 2385-2392.

Research Interests and Expertise

Systematics and taxonomy of Odonata, character evolution in Odonata, insect migration, insect energetics and behavioral ecology