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Body size and social dominance influence breeding dispersal in male Pachydiplax longipennis (Odonata)



    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Entomology, Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, California, U.S.A.
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      Current address: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, 25 Willcocks St., Toronto, ON M5S 3B2, Canada.

Shannon J. McCauley, Department of Entomology, Center for Population Biology, University of California, 2320 Storer Hall, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616, U.S.A. E-mail:


1. Dispersal behaviour can be affected by an individual's phenotype, by the environmental or social context they experience, and by interactions between these factors. Differential dispersal propensities between individuals may also be an important modifier of functional connectivity between populations. To assess how a key trait, body size, affected both social interactions and dispersal behaviour, this study examined the relationship between body size, antagonistic interactions, and breeding dispersal in male dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) across a seasonal decline in adult body size.

2. During a seasonal peak in male body size in this study, dispersers were smaller than non-dispersers. Later in the season, the body size of dispersers and non-dispersers did not differ.

3. Focal observations found that body size was related to competitive dominance, large males engaged in aggressive chases more often and smaller males were more frequently pursued.

4. These results indicate that when large males were present, small males were more likely to disperse suggesting that dispersal is a tactic adopted by social subordinates in this context. If breeding dispersal is typically undertaken by subordinate males, functional connectivity between populations may be less than estimated from absolute dispersal rates.