Phenotypic plasticity : temporal, spatial, and behavioral effects on wing morphology of damselflies in Central Texas.
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Stewart, Sherry S.
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In winged animals, flight morphology must be adapted for optimum behavioral efficiency. Behaviors such as foraging, predator avoidance, and mating are stongly influenced by wing morphology and influenced by environmental conditions in many species. Geometric morphometric methods analyze and visualize subtle variations in wing shape. This study examined environmental and behavioral effects on wing shape and wing size in both sexes of multiple damselfly species over several flight seasons in central Texas. Wing size is a proxy for body size of damselflies. For Argia sedula, comparisons were made 1) between adults collected early in the season versus those collected late in the season, 2) between adults collected at different locations, and 3) among adults collected during several flight seasons at the same locations. Significant differences in wing shape and size occurred between seasons and between years, but not between locations. Using these findings, I broadened this study to examine temporal effects on wing size and wing shape of both sexes in eight damselfly species. Analyses indicated significant differences in wing shape and wing size between early and late flight seasons in every comparison, including seven populations of four species. Damselflies emerging early in the flight season were significantly larger than those emerging later in the flight season. In contrast, significant shape and size differences between years occurred in only one of six species. Finally, I examined wing morphology associated with gender by comparing 1) mated and unmated damselflies of both sexes from three species, and 2) males and females from ten species. Significant differences in wing shape and size occurred between mated and unmated damselflies in one of nine populations sampled. As expected, significant differences in wing shape and wing size occurred between males and females in nineteen of the twenty comparisons made from ten species. These results suggest that differences in seasonal and annual environmental conditions frequently influence wing shape and body size in both sexes of multiple damselfly species. This work presents an original, comprehensive study of environmental and behavioral effects on wing morphology using geometric morphometric techniques.