Evolutionary dynamics and population biology of a polymorphic insect


Erik I. Svensson, Section for Animal Ecology, Lund University, Ecology Building, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden.
Tel.: +46-46-2223819; fax: +46-46-2224716; e-mail: erik.svensson@zooekol.lu.se


Conspicuous heritable polymorphisms are useful to address the question if morph frequencies are stable or whether they fluctuate between generations. Ecological geneticists have studied colour polymorphisms in the past, but there are few long-term studies of genetic dynamics across multiple generations. We studied morph-frequency dynamics and female fecundity in the trimorphic blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans). The morphs include a male-coloured (androchrome) type of female, which is thought to be maintained by frequency-dependent sexual conflict. Morph frequencies changed significantly between years across all populations. There was evidence for directional frequency change since androchrome females increased in 9 of 10 populations across a 4-year period. There was heterogeneity between populations in their evolutionary trajectories, partly caused by population age: androchrome frequencies were initially high in young populations but gradually decreased and approached the level of old populations. We discuss the possible causes of morph-frequency fluctuations, and the role of morph-specific fecundity, dispersal and other forces influencing evolutionary dynamics in this system.