Parthenogenetic Ischnura hastata revisited: present status and notes on population ecology and behaviour (Odonata: Coenagrionidae)


Populations of Ischnura hastata found in the Azores archipelago represent the only known example of parthenogenesis in the order Odonata. In this paper, we present results from fieldwork done on the islands of São Miguel, Pico, Santa Maria, and Graciosa, aimed at characterizing population ecology and habitat preferences of this species. Sampling of several ponds in the islands of São Miguel and Pico showed that I. hastata occurred in oligotrophic ponds, but was absent from all eutrophic ponds sampled, many of which have been impacted by cattle grazing and water extraction by humans. This suggests that parthenogenetic populations are highly sensitive to eutrophication, which may be different from suggested habitat preferences of sexual populations for this species. Mark-recapture studies showed I. hastata to occur in high densities in the studied populations. Although life expectancy of mature females was estimated at less than one week, their high fecundity and fertility could potentially explain the large number of individuals observed in some of the studied sites. Submerged oviposition seems to be a common behaviour, probably evolved as an adaptation to unfavourable climatic conditions and to avoid egg desiccation caused by water depletion. In summary, this work represents a first attempt to study the ecology and population biology of parthenogenetic populations of I. hastata, and may help us to understand the unique conditions under which these populations could have evolved and how to best insure their conservation.

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