Morphological differences in the ovary of Libellulidae (Odonata)


All female Odonata have been assumed to produce oocytes continuously during their mature life span. However, a recent study of ovariole orientation and development led to the suggestion that Libellulidae are divided into two groups of species, one with continuous, the other with stepwise oocyte production. To find more evidence of this division, we compared the size variation and growth within the vitellarium of the ovary, studying oocytes, and follicle cells. We found that morphological characters discriminate between the two ovary types in eight of the 10 investigated species. In both types we found an increase in all measurements from the anterior to the posterior end of the vitellarium. The increase in oocyte width and follicle cell length was significantly higher in species with a continuous oocyte production. We also noted that follicle cells may have more than one nucleus and that their number can vary during vitellogenesis. Our study confirmed the hypotheses that two different ovary types exist in Libellulidae. The two species not fitting into this grouping could be an artefact of small sample size due to intraspecific phenotypic plasticity, or else there might be more than two ovary groups, or even a continuum. We could not offer an explanation as to how the process of stepwise oocyte production differs from continuous based production on morphological characters.

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