Morphology of dragonfly larvae along a habitat gradient: interactions with feeding behaviour and growth (Odonata: Libellulidae)


It has been shown that life history, behavioural as well as morphological traits vary with the habitats occupied by odonate larvae. Here we ask the following questions: (1) Are the morphological traits, which are associated with perception and foraging, related to the larval habitat? (2) Do these traits influence foraging success and growth rate? We analysed the morphology of species pairs belonging to the genera Crocothemis, Orthetrum and Trithemis; one species in each pair occurring in perennial spring-fed streams, the other able to develop in temporary waters. A PCA reveals four principal components of morphological characters which may be expressed as PC1: prey handling, PC2: visual perception, and PC3 and PC4: density of long and short setae on the feet. The variances of PC1, PC2 and PC3 were affected by phylogeny. PC1, PC2 and PC4 differed between habitats. Species of perennial springs had larger values for visual perception. These waters are clear and larger eyes should be beneficial. But, a high PC2 value was associated with low growth rate and did not affect foraging success. We therefore conclude that investment in better sight made by perennial water species may reflect the need of avoiding predators. Development in temporary waters mainly requires rapid growth and species may not be capable to invest also in visual perception. PCI was negatively correlated with foraging behaviour and PC3 was positively so. This indicates the importance of prey capture mode to foraging success, which may, however, not translate into a higher growth rate.

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