What is it about?
Simon Keat was a PhD student at the University of Liverpool who was lucky enough to be just beginning his PhD when the small red-eyed damselfly first established in the UK. Simon surveyed a number of populations around Europe and in the UK, collecting animals to measure them and extract DNA. With the body size measurements we showed that animals tend to show a strong relationship with latitude: populations further north were much larger and this held for both the older populations in France, Belgium and Germany as well as the newer populations in the UK. Looking at the genetics, we had expected to see declining genetic diversity further north, as a small number of individuals led the charge up the country. However, instead of a decline in diversity in the UK we saw an almost complete lack of genetic pattern. This suggests that the animals were moving in such great numbers that there was not the time for any local patterns to develop.
Why is it important?
Range expansions have important consequences for many aspects of human life: agricultural pests shift and threaten crops, diseases and their vectors shift and threaten human health, and endangered species shift and potentially move out of protected areas. We have shown that during this particular range expansion there has been negligible change in genetic structure but that newly-invaded areas contain relatively large damselflies. Since damselflies are voracious predators, this could have substantial implications of local ecosystems.
The following have contributed to this page: Dr Christopher Hassall
In partnership with: