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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Two experimental designs generate contrasting patterns of behavioral differentiation along a latitudinal gradient in Lestes sponsa—Common‐garden not so common after all?

Golab, Maria J.; Brodin, Tomas; Sniegula, Szymon


Understanding why and how behavioral profiles differ across latitudes can help predict behavioral responses to environmental change. The first response to environmental change that an organism exhibits is commonly a behavioral response. Change in one behavior usually results in shifts in other correlated behaviors, which may adaptively or maladaptively vary across environments and/or time. However, one important aspect that is often neglected when studying behavioral expressions among populations is if/how the experimental design might affect the results. This is unfortunate since animals often plastically modify their behavior to the environment, for example, rearing conditions. We studied behavioral traits and trait correlations in larvae of a univoltine damselfly,Lestes sponsa, along its latitudinal distribution, spreading over 3,300 km. We compared behavioral profiles among larvae grown in two conditions: (a) native temperatures and photoperiods or (b) averaged constant temperatures and photoperiods (common-garden). We hypothesized latitudinal differences in behavioral traits regardless of the conditions in which larvae were grown, with northern populations expressing higher activity, boldness, and foraging efficiency. When grown in native conditions, northern larvae were bolder, more active and more effective in prey capture than central and low latitude populations, respectively, as well as showed the strongest behavioral correlations. In contrast, larvae reared in common-garden conditions showed no differences between regions in both individual traits and trait correlations. The results suggest different selective pressures acting on the studied traits across populations, with environment as a central determinant of the observed trait values. Common-garden designed experiments may evoke population-dependent levels of plastic response to the artificial conditions and, hence, generate results that lack ecological relevance when studying multi-population differences in behavior.


behavioral correlations; common-garden; latitudinal gradient; Lestes sponsa; native rearing conditions

Published in

Ecology and Evolution
2020, Volume: 10, number: 18, pages: 10242-10253
Publisher: WILEY