Postponed reproductive maturation in upland refuges maintains life-cycle continuity during the hot, dry season in Algerian dragonflies (Anisoptera)


Anisoptera were monitored or sampled regularly at lowland and nearby upland sites in northeastern Algeria during 1992 and 1993. After emerging in lowlands at about sea level in May and June, adults disappeared from lowlands and were then soon encountered in nearby hills at ca 500-1000 m a.s.l. where they aestivated in woodland for about three and a half months (Sympetrum meridionale) or more than four months (Aeshna mixta, Sympetrum striolatum). During aestivation adults foraged, gradually changed colour and achieved reproductive maturity. Aestivation ended with the onset of heavy rain in late September or early October when mature adults reappeared at lowland sites where they promptly exhibited reproductive behaviour. Although no adults marked in lowlands were recaptured in uplands, the inference that individual adults made two-way flights between lowlands and uplands is compelling. Postponed reproductive maturation in upland refuges maintains continuity of the life cycle in habitats inimical to survival of the aquatic stages during the protracted hot, dry season. This type of life cycle can be expected to occur in populations of European Odonata near the southern limit of their geographic distribution where they encounter a Mediterranean climate. The implications of such a life cycle for habitat conservation are discussed.

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