Stadia and growth ratios of Odonata: a review


A terminology is presented for structures and events in larval development of Odonata with the aim of bringing terms into conformity with those used for other insect orders in the light of accepted views of homology. The terms ‘exuvia’, ‘larva’, ‘prolarva’ and ‘stadium’ receive special mention. Records of the number of stadia required to complete larval development for 118 species are listed and analysed, showing that the range for Odonata is 8 through 18 stadia (8 through 18 for 8 species of Anisoptera; 8 through 17 for 38 species of Zygoptera) averaging 12.4 stadia for the order (Anisoptera 12.5 and Zygoptera 12.2), in which >90% of records range from 10 through 16 stadia (both Anisoptera and Zygoptera >90%). The number of stadia varies between and within species, sometimes within members arising from a single egg batch. No unifying hypothesis exists to rationalize variation in the number of stadia. Duration of successive stadia within a species can be a smooth, increasing progression but can also show wide departures from such a pattern. Duration of a single stadium can range from 1 day (or >1 day in the prolarva) through >1 year. Uniformity of size of the final-stadium larva can be achieved by the growth ratio (between successive ecdyses) compensating for the number of stadia. Aeshnidae typically have more stadia than do Libellulidae and also have a smaller average growth ratio. Ontogenetic profiles of growth ratios for different dimensions tend to have a characteristic form for each dimension, regardless of the eventual number of stadia. For some dimensions (e.g. headwidth) and some species the profile forms a smooth declining progression but for others (e.g. length of caudal appendage) it fluctuates irregularly. Headwidth therefore represents the dimension of choice for specifying stages of larval development. Rewarding avenues for research include the documentation of prospective links between larval life style on the one hand and stadial numbers and growth-ratio profiles on the other, and discovery of morphological characters that make it possible to determine to species larvae of early stadia.

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