Aim We analysed latitudinal range, centres of distribution and northern range boundaries of dragonflies and damselflies occurring in Europe and North America with respect to larval habitat (standing water = lentic and running water = lotic). As lentic water bodies are thought to be less predictable in space and time than lotic habitats, species adapted to standing waters depend on effective dispersal ability for long-term survival. If species occurring in lentic habitats have a higher propensity for dispersal, then larger range sizes in lentic than in lotic species, as well as an increase in the proportion of lentic species with latitude, would be expected.
Location Europe, North America.
Methods Distributional and habitat data were collected from published sources for all odonates of Europe and North America. Species were assigned to lentic and lotic habitats according to the habitat of the larvae. From distribution maps we estimated the latitudinal range, centre of distribution and northern range boundary of each species. Differences in these distribution variables between lentic and lotic species were evaluated using anova. We related the proportion of lentic species by latitudinal interval in Europe, and by political unit (state, province) in North America, to area, altitudinal range, longitude (only for North America) and latitude by means of generalized linear models.
Results Lentic damselflies and dragonflies had larger latitudinal spans, and more northern distribution centres and range boundaries, than lotic species. The proportion of lentic species increased with latitude. These findings were consistent between continents.
Main conclusions Our results support previous findings that distribution patterns of freshwater species depend on habitat preference. Evolution of dispersal propensity according to habitat characteristics is the most likely explanation. However, at present, alternative explanations, such as an increase in lentic habitats with latitude, cannot be ruled out.