Do coloured-winged damselflies and dragonflies have flight kinematics different from those with clear wings?


The flights of male odonates encountering conspecifics at their reproduction sites were investigated by means of slow-motion films. We recorded large and generally consistent differences between species with clear wings (SCLW) and species with coloured wings (SCOW). SCLW mostly fought having physical contact and moved their wings without pauses in wing beats (hereafter designated wing pauses), attacking the other males. During encounters, SCOW males showed pauses of all wings or of the fore or the hind wings only. The wing beat frequencies of SCOW therefore showed much greater variation than in SCLW. In Zygoptera SCOW, parallel flapping of both wing pairs was frequent. The two investigated species of Calopterygidae showed several special flight patterns when encountering other males. Male Anisoptera with coloured wings also used wing pauses, and often displayed their wing patterns by gliding and banking to the other male or by flying in an upright posture. Thus, we found that most odonate males with coloured wings, in the presence of rivals, exhibited special flight styles, implying signalling functions. We interpret wing pauses as an adaptive characteristic that allows rival males to evaluate the quality of their opponent by assessment of the coloured wings. Sexual selection is suggested as a possible cause for the evolution of these flights.

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