Morph-specific and sex-specific temperature effects on morphology in the colour polymorphic damselfly Ischnura elegans

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Colour polymorphic species with extensive ranges often exhibit large-scale geographic patterns of morph frequency variation. Because colour polymorphism is associated with correlated differences in multiple traits, such as thermal performance, a likely proximate explanation for such patterns is morph-specific responses to temperature variation. The colour polymorphic Blue-tailed damselfly Ischnura elegans exhibits large-scale geographic variation in morph frequencies, but the possibility that temperature is a proximate explanation for the latitudinal cline in morph frequencies has only ever been tested within a single developmental stage (egg survival and hatching time), where no difference between the morphs was found. I therefore carried out a temperature manipulation on larvae of I. elegans which I raised to maturity in the laboratory. I found that individuals exhibited incomplete compensatory growth after being exposed to cold temperatures, and that individuals which did not emerge successfully and those that experienced cold temperatures had more juvenile morphology in the last instar. In addition, there were sex-specific and morph-specific effects of temperature on adult morphology, such that sexual size dimorphism was increased when individuals experienced warm temperatures throughout the larval stage, and that cold temperatures tended to result in larger size of androchromes and their offspring compared to the other morphs. These results are generally consistent with the large-scale geographic variation in morph frequencies found in this species.

Morph-specific and sex-specific temperature effects on morphology in the colour polymorphic damselfly Ischnura elegans

in Animal Biology



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    Differences in size over development for (a) maternal morph, (b) sex, (c) emergence success, and (d) temperature. Centroid size was calculated from 11 landmarks (see fig. 2a) and time in the figure indicates two-week intervals relative to the date of emergence (or death, for individuals that died in the last instar). Offspring of infuscans-obsoleta females were initially smaller than offspring of the other morphs, but this difference decreased over ontogeny. Females were larger than males throughout ontogeny, but this difference was only significant in the final instars. Individuals that emerged successfully were significantly larger than individuals that did not emerge successfully in the last instar. Individuals that had experienced cold temperatures during part of development were smaller than those that had been in warm conditions, and although individuals in the cold treatment increased their rate of growth once they were returned to warm conditions they did not fully compensate for the difference in size. There were no significant interactions between main effects, so only main effects are shown. Bonferroni-corrected significance indicators: t=P<0.10, =P<0.05, =P<0.01, =P<0.001. Symbols show LS means and SEs.

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    Landmarks used in the analysis of larval shape (a) and differences in the last instar (b-e). (a) 11 landmarks were placed along the outline and midline of the larva. (b) Differences between the offspring of the three female morphs in the last instar. The grid shows how the mean infuscans or infuscans-obsoleta offspring shape must be deformed to produce the mean configuration found in androchrome offspring (note that both deformation grids are exaggerated by a factor of 5 for clarity). Offspring of androchrome females have significantly different morphology than offspring of infuscans or infuscans-obsoleta females, with smaller heads, larger eyes, and relatively longer abdomens (compare with (c)). (c) Differences between the sexes in the last instar. The grid shows how the female configuration must be deformed to produce a male configuration (exaggerated by a factor of 10 for clarity). Males have larger eyes, a narrower thorax, and a longer, thinner abdomen than females. (d) Differences in the last instar between larvae that emerged successfully and those that did not. The grid shows deformation of the successful configuration to the unsuccessful configuration (exaggerated by a factor of 3 for clarity). Individuals that did not emerge successfully had a more juvenile configuration than those that did. (e) Differences in the last instar between individuals that experienced warm conditions or cold conditions during development. The grid shows deformation of the warm configuration to the cold configuration (exaggerated by a factor of 5 for clarity). Individuals that experienced cold conditions had a more juvenile configuration than those that experience warm conditions throughout. This figure is published in colour in the online version.

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    Effect of maternal morph on offspring sex ratio. Offspring of infuscans females had the lowest probability of successful emergence. Infuscans-obsoleta females produced the most female-biased broods. There were no significant interactions between main effects, so only main effects are shown. Symbols show means and SEs.


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