Latitudinal variation in morphology in two sympatric damselfly species with contrasting range dynamics (odonata: coenagrionidae)

Christopher HASSALL, David J. THOMPSON, Ian F. HARVEY
  • European Journal of Entomology, December 2008, Biology Centre, AS CR
  • DOI: 10.14411/eje.2008.120

What is it about?

I was interested in shape and size varied between a species that is not moving north under climate change (the large red damselfly, Pyrrhosoma nymphula) and a species that has been expanding its range into Scotland (the azure damselfly, Coenagrion puella). I collected animals at a series of sites from southern England to Scotland for both species. The results showed that there was little consistent variation in size or dispersal traits in P. nymphula but that C. puella showed increases in size and the relative investment in the thorax and abdomen (indicative of greater flight ability). These results, taken together, suggest that there has been evolution in the characteristics of the animal related to dispersal in the expanding C. puella.

Why is it important?

The presence of traits that could facilitate response to climate change, such as enhanced dispersal to increase colonisation of new habitats, could make the difference between a species thriving or failing under climate change. This is particularly important for species that rely on aquatic habitats for their life cycle, because water resources are predicted to be under increasing threat in the future.


Dr Christopher Hassall
University of Leeds

A species’ shape and size can tell you a lot about how the animals are doing in their environment. For example, species tend to get larger at cooler temperatures, a phenomenon known as “Bergmann’s rule”, and they tend to have greater dispersal traits where they need to move further (such as locations where habitat patches are further apart). Dragonflies and damselflies are such important parts of ecosystems that we need to understand how they vary and how they will change under climate change.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Christopher Hassall