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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Cross-Latitude Behavioural Axis in an Adult Damselfly Calopteryx splendens (Harris, 1780)

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


Simple Summary Animals adapt to the environment they live in. If the environment changes, animals usually adapt behaviourally as a first response. By studying behavioural profiles across long distances, we can detect environmental change reflected in shifts in behavioural profiles. This study examined variation in three behavioural axes: activity, courtship and boldness, and the association between these behaviours, i.e., behavioural syndromes, across three damselfly populations along a latitudinal gradient (i.e., climatic gradient). Our study organism was the temperate damselfly Calopteryx splendens. We predicted that behavioural expressions would gradually increase from southern to northern regions. This is because northern animals should compensate behaviourally for a brief and cold breeding season (i.e., time constraint). Activity was the only behaviour feature positively associated with latitudinal gradient. Courtship effort was highest in the central region, whereas boldness values were highest in the north but did not differ between central and south. In the southern region, an activity-boldness and a courtship-boldness syndrome were present, and in the northern region, only an activity-boldness syndrome was found. Our results confirm that environmental variability in biotic and abiotic factors across studied latitudes generates regional differences in behavioural profiles, which do not always follow latitudinal gradient. Behavioural variation is important for evolutionary and ecological processes, but can also be useful when predicting consequences of climate change and effects on species ranges. Latitudinal differences in behaviour have received relatively limited research interest when compared to morphological, life history and physiological traits. This study examined differences in expression of three behavioural axes: activity, courtship and boldness, and their correlations, along a European latitudinal gradient spanning ca. 1500 km. The study organism was the temperate damselfly Calopteryx splendens (Harris). We predicted that the expression of both behavioural traits and behavioural syndromes would be positively correlated to latitude, with the lowest values in the southern populations, followed by central and the highest in the north, because animals usually compensate behaviourally for increasing time constraints and declining environmental conditions. We found that behavioural expression varied along the latitudinal cline, although not always in the predicted direction. Activity was the only behaviour that followed our prediction and gradually increased northward. Whereas no south-to-north gradient was seen in any of the behavioural syndromes. The results, particularly for activity, suggest that climatic differences across latitudes change behavioural profiles. However, for other traits such as courtship and boldness, local factors might invoke stronger selection pressures, disrupting the predicted latitudinal pattern.


Odonata; latitudinal gradient; boldness; activity; courtship; behavioural syndrome

Published in

2022, Volume: 13, number: 4, article number: 342
Publisher: MDPI