What is it about?
Dragonflies and damselflies are amongst the most efficient flying insects. Being efficient flyers is important for the survival of these insects, for example, to catch prey in the air or to escape predation themselves. Many morphological traits contribute to this flying ability; For instance, wing shape and size have been shown to affect flight performance in many insect species. However, as urbanisation increases, so does the fragmentation of natural habitats. This poses problems for flying insects such as the damselfly which then need to fly over longer distances to reach suitable habitats. This paper looks at whether habitat fragmentation in urban areas affects physical traits such as wing shape and size in a damselfly species. It compares such traits across an urban-to-rural gradient; In this study, urban areas represent a heavily fragmented environment, suburban areas represent an intermediate level of fragmentation and rural areas tend to have the fewest barriers and therefore low habitat fragmentation. The results may surprise you as there were no significant differences in traits across the environments. There were, however, differences that were found between females and males across all environments. The paper discusses some interesting points as to why these unexpected results were obtained, including discussion of the Urban Heat Island Effect. The paper also goes on to discuss the reasons behind female and male differences in this damselfly.
Why is it important?
As the rate of urbanisation increases, it’s important to think about the effects that this change may have on wildlife and the environment. Some studies have revealed positive effects but many have shone light on the negative impacts imposed on nature. Either way, understanding the consequences of urbanisation can help future conservation efforts if and when they are needed and this study adds to the growing body of work being conducted on individual species.
The following have contributed to this page: Dr Christopher Hassall
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