Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 73-83

First online:

Differences in dispersal- and colonization-related traits between taxa from the freshwater and the terrestrial realm

  • Heike KappesAffiliated withNaturalis Biodiversity CenterDepartment of Ecology, Cologne Biocenter, University of Cologne Email author 
  • , Oliver TackenbergAffiliated withInstitute for Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, Goethe-University FrankfurtBiodiversity and Climate Research Centre (LOEWE BiK-F)
  • , Peter HaaseAffiliated withBiodiversity and Climate Research Centre (LOEWE BiK-F)Department of River Ecology and Conservation, Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung

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The aquatic and terrestrial realms differ in many physical properties that not only require specific physiological adaptations but also cause differences in dispersal options. We thus expect that life-history traits related to dispersal and colonization are under selection pressure because freshwater habitats are more isolated and thus more difficult to reach. We compared traits from European databases of three taxonomic groups along the passive–active dispersal gradient: plants (Plantes), snails (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Prosobranchia et Pulmonata) and hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae), all of which have both terrestrial and freshwater species (plants and snails) or early life stages (hoverflies). Aquatic taxa seem to be more successful long-distance dispersers than are terrestrial taxa. Our analysis also revealed lower numbers of seeds or eggs produced in the aquatic habitats. However, aquatic taxa often allocate resources to offspring guarding (vegetative propagules in plants, egg capsules in snails) and breeding-site selection (syrphids). Colonization of the aquatic realm is reinforced by increases in life span (plants), clonal spread (plants), shorter generation times (snails), selfing ability (marginal effect in pulmonate snails) or paedogenesis (two incidences in hoverflies, needs further studies). Probably, the variety of strategies reflects the different evolutionary backgrounds that elicit different combinations of trade-offs, but all traits also might increase invasibility of species.


Benthic macroinvertebrates Biological invasions Evolution Long-distance dispersal (LDD) Range extension