, Volume 528, Issue 1-3, pp 75-85

A field study of larval development in a dragonfly assemblage in African desert ponds (Odonata)

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Aquatic animals distributed along a 'habitat-permanence' gradient (HPG), differ in life history (Wellborn et al., 1996. Annual Revue of Ecology and Systematics 27: 337--363). Dragonflies that occur in hot arid regions often occur in temporary waters and consequently perform direct and rapid development. Dragonfly species of the Namibian desert do differ in their selection of habitats along the HPG and therefore may also differ in life cycle. Here, we attempt to monitor colonisation, larval growth and emergence in a temporary pond of known history. We studied the development of dragonfly species that laid eggs in artificial ponds constructed by us in March 2001. The assemblage consisted of species that originate from different habitats along the HPG. To obtain data on larval development we took samples from the ponds at 10-day intervals. Most species showed rapid development. By regressing the maximum sizes attained by larvae on each sampling date against time we estimated growth rates for five species and were thereby able to estimate that total duration of development from oviposition to emergence ranged between 38 and 70 days. Observation of first oviposition and first emergence for three of these species corroborated our estimates based on growth rate. Of few species, which laid eggs in the ponds no larvae or adults were found. For some this may have been the result of predation whereas others may not have grown fast enough to emerge before the ponds dried up. Our results indicate that dragonflies cannot recognise whether a pond will retain water long enough for full larval development and oviposit in waters that will not allow larval development.