Wings ofCoenagrion puellavary in shape at the northern range margin (Odonata: Coenagrionidae)

Christopher Hassall, David J. Thompson, Ian F. Harvey
  • International Journal of Odonatology, April 2008, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/13887890.2008.9748310

Wings of Coenagrion puella vary in shape at the northern range margin

Photo by Tao Yuan on Unsplash

Photo by Tao Yuan on Unsplash

What is it about?

I was interested in whether wing shape varied with latitude in the UK. The populations living in habitat in the UK are exposed to a range of temperatures depending on location and it might be that certain wing shapes confer advantages in certain habitats. Based on a survey of seven populations of Coenagrion puella, I compared wing shape using a method called “geometric morphometrics”. This allowed me to look at shape independently of the size of the wing. I found that the wing shape in the majority of populations was very similar. All populations in the south of England were comparable, but the populations in the south of Scotland showed a progressive shift away from this “typical” wing shape until a site near Edinburgh which was significantly (if subtly) different.

Why is it important?

Wing shape has been highly conserved throughout odonate evolution (i.e. ancient odonates are similar in shape to present-day odonates). Because even small variations between species are consistent, wing shape and patterns of wing veins have been used to identify species. My study showed that these wing shapes were not as consistent as people had previously thought and that there might be ecological or evolutionary processes that can cause significant variation.

Perspectives

Dr Christopher Hassall
University of Leeds

Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) are an ancient order of insects. By this, I mean that they have remained largely unchanged since their ancestors evolved 500 million years ago. They have a fairly unique flight style which is a product of the configuration and use of their wings. Wing length has been used as a measure of odonate body size for many years, but wing shape has received less attention.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13887890.2008.9748310

The following have contributed to this page: Dr Christopher Hassall