1. 1.

    Both ‘perchers’ (Libellula saturata) and ‘fliers’ (Anax junius and Aeshna multicolor) remained active in the field in sunshine at air temperatures from at least 24 °C to 36 °C.

  2. 2.

    The percher basked at low air temperatures and regulated exogenous heat input by postural adjustments. It markedly reduced flight activity at high air temperatures but flew nearly continuously at intermediate temperatures.

  3. 3.

    In direct sunlight, the abdomen of L. saturata heated faster than the thorax, but this percher exhibited little or no capacity to transfer heat between abdomen and thorax.

  4. 4.

    In contrast, the fliers gave no evidence of behavioural thermoregulation, but both showed impressive capacities for heat transfer from thorax to abdomen.

  5. 5.

    When heated exogenously on the thorax the temperature of the entire abdomen of both fliers increased uniformly, but with endogenous heat production during pre-flight warm-up there was only a slight temperature increase near the anterior portion of the abdomen.

  6. 6.

    Removal of abdominal air sacs or immobilizing the abdomen with wax to prevent all abdominal pumping did not significantly alter the capacity to transfer heat from thorax to abdomen.

  7. 7.

    Ligation of the heart anywhere along the length of the abdomen abolished heat transfer. Given sufficient exogenous heat input, fliers that can regulate their thoracic temperature by transferring the excess heat to the abdomen died in about 2 min due to overheating when the heart was occluded. Under our experimental conditions the fliers appeared to thermoregulate exclusively via a control of blood circulation.

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