Confirming the relationship between body size and perch height in tropical odonates (Odonata: Libellulidae): wet-season contrasts and experimental tests


In a previous study conducted during the dry season at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica, mean perch height of libellulid dragonfly species (Odonata: Libellulidae) correlated with male body size, and interactions between species suggested a size-dependent competitive hierarchy. Here, I report on a wet-season study that examined whether seasonal changes in community composition affect these patterns. Males were captured, photographed, and marked, perch heights among individuals and species on natural and artificial perches (25, 50, and 100 cm) were compared, and the frequencies of aggressive interactions between species were analyzed. I also examined the responses of Micrathyria atra and Micrathyria mengeri males to decoys of these species placed in their territory at different heights (50 or 100 cm). Although the wet season community differed from the dry season community (Jaccard dissimilarity = 0.778), there was still a significant correlation between species perch height and body size, on both natural and artificial perches. Interspecific interactions supported the size-dependent competitive hierarchy hypothesis: smaller species that perched low avoided attacks by larger species. These patterns were confirmed in the decoy experiment. The larger M. atra, which perches at ∼100 cm, attacked decoys at 100 cm almost exclusively, and attacked decoys of the smaller M. mengeri more than conspecifics. In contrast, M. mengeri (which perches at 50 cm) only attacked decoys placed at 50 cm. Although community membership changed, the correlation between body size and perch height was maintained by a size-dependent competitive hierarchy in both dry and rainy seasons.

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