Wings of Coenagrion puella vary in shape at the northern range margin
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.
The following have contributed to this page: Dr Christopher Hassall
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