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Characteristics of dispersing Ischnura elegans and Coenagrion puella (Odonata): age, sex, size, morph and ectoparasitism


  • Kelvin F. Conrad,

  • Karen H. Willson,

  • Katherine Whitfield,

  • Ian F. Harvey,

  • Chris J. Thomas,

  • Thomas N. Sherratt

K. F. Conrad, K. Whitfield, C. J. Thomas and T. N. Sherratt (correspondence:, Dept of Biological Sciences, Univ. of Durham, South Road, Durham, U.K. DH1 3LE. – K. H. Willson and I. F. Harvey, School of Biological Sciences, Univ. of Liverpool, P.O. Box 147, Liverpool, U.K. L69 3BX (present address of K. F. C.: IACR Rothamsted Harpenden, Herts, U.K. AL5 2JQ).


In this study we assessed whether individuals of the damselfly species Ischnura elegans and Coenagrion puella that moved between ponds differed in their mean characteristics from individuals that did not move. Overall, the sex (female) and species (C. puella) that spent the most time away from the breeding site was more likely to move between ponds. Ischnura elegans males that dispersed had significantly longer forewings than males that did not, while male C. puella parasitised by water mites were more likely to disperse than unparasitised males. There was no evidence for differences in dispersal rates among the female colour forms of either I. elegans or C. puella. In general, the differences in dispersal characteristics between sexes and species could be explained by underlying variation in activity and mobility. The majority of dispersal between breeding sites by C. puella and I. elegans did not appear to be directed, but probably arose from chance movements occasionally taking individuals to a different pond from which they emerged.

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