Constant and shifting photoperiods as seasonal cues during larval development of the univoltine damselfly Lestes sponsa (Odonata: Lestidae)


Larvae were reared at 21.5°C from eggs from southernmost Sweden, and fed ad libitum to emergence in four different photoperiodic treatments, intended to represent increasing levels of time stress: constant LD 16:8, corresponding to late April (or August) conditions, a shift after about two weeks from LD 16:8 to 19.5:4.5, coarsely simulating late spring, constant LD 19.5:4.5, corresponding to the summer solstice, and a shift from LD 19.5:4.5 to 16:8, coarsely simulating late summer. Mean larval development time significantly decreased in this series: 47.5, 45.2, 43.0 and 39 days (n = 11–13 larvae), respectively. This suggests an ecologically relevant integration of absolute photoperiods and changes in photoperiod, allowing larvae to distinguish if LD 16:8 represented spring or late summer, depending on earlier experience. Thus, rapid development, a long day response during spring conditions, is further speeded up by shorter days during late summer. In early stadia, moulting intervals were uniform, but long days may to some extent have programmed young larvae to develop with fewer moults, thereby increasing development rate. In the last four stadia the principal effect was variation in moulting intervals. Adult size was little affected. Homogeneous conditions and low genetic diversity produced a remarkably synchronous development within treatments, with an emergence span of 5–10 days. Due to low numbers of larvae, derived from a single female, and problems with a switch, the generality of these results would need confirmation.

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