, Volume 132, Issue 1, pp 23–32

Wing length allometry in Odonata: differences between families in relation to migratory behaviour

Original Paper


In insects, wing shape and body size are correlated with several aspects of behaviour, and the optimal morphology of wings is a trade-off between a number of functional demands in relation to behaviour (e.g. foraging, migration and sexual display). Dragonflies are spectacularly skilful flyers and present a range of different wing shapes, but to date, no detailed studies have been conducted in this group on wing length allometry in relation to body size. In this paper, we use published data on body length and wing length in all European and North American dragonflies to investigate differences in wing length allometries among Odonata taxa (suborders and families) and to relate these to behavioural patterns. We found different wing allometries between Zygoptera and Anisoptera, which are probably related to the flight mode and wing form of the two suborders. Among the Anisoptera, the Libellulidae showed a distinct wing length allometry from all other anisopteran families and migrants differed from non-migrant species. The first dichotomy is likely to reflect the adaptation of wing morphology of Libellulidae to sit-and-wait behaviour and to brief foraging flights (most species of this family are perchers) with respect to all other families, members of which are typically flyers. The second dichotomy reflects the trend of migrating species to have relatively longer wings than non-migrating members of the same family. Finally, wing length allometry differed among all the zygopteran families analysed, and this pattern suggested that each family evolved a particular wing morphology in response to peculiarities in behaviour, habitat and flight mode.


Wing length allometry Body size Migratory behaviour Odonata Libellulidae 


  1. Akaike H (1973) Information theory and an extension of the maximum likelihood principle. In: Petrov BN, Caski F (eds) Proceeding of the second international symposium on information theory. Akademia Kiado, BudapestGoogle Scholar
  2. Altizer S, Davis AK (2010) Populations of Monarch butterflies with different migratory behaviours show divergence in wing morphology. Evolution 64:1018–1028PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berwaerts K, van Dyck H, Aerts P (2002) Does flight morphology relate to flight performance? An experimental test with the butterfly Pararge aegeria. Funct Ecol 16:484–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blomberg SP, Garland T Jr, Ives AR (2003) Testing for phylogenetic signal in comparative data: behaviorial traits are more labile. Evolution 57:717–745PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bried JT, Bennett LW, Ervin GN (2005) Live mass and length-mass allometry of adult odonates collected in east-central Mississippi, United States. Odonatologica 34:111–122Google Scholar
  6. Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and multimodal inference: a practical information-theoretic approach. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Calmaestra RG, Moreno E (2001) A phylogenetically-based analysis on the relationship between wing morphology and migratory behaviour in Passeriformes. Ardea 89:405–414Google Scholar
  8. Carle FL, Kjer KM, May ML (2008) Evolution of Odonata, with special reference to Coenagrionidae (Zygoptera). Arthr Sys Phyl 66:37–44Google Scholar
  9. Corbet PS (1962) A biology of dragonflies. Witherby, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Corbet PS (1999) Dragonflies—behaviour and ecology of Odonata. Cornell University Press, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  11. Corbet PS, May ML (2008) Fliers and perchers among Odonata: dichotomy or multidimensional continuum? A provisional reappraisal. Int J Odonatol 11:155–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cordero Rivera A (2000) An analysis of multivariate selection in a non-territorial damselfly (Odonata: Coenagrionidae). Etología 8:37–41Google Scholar
  13. Davies R, Nicholson DB, Saunders ELR, Mayhew PJ (2011) Fossil gaps inferred from phylogenies alter the apparent nature of diversification in dragonflies and their relatives. BMC Evol Biol 11:252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dijkstra KDB, Lewington R (2006) Field Guide to the Dragonflies of Britain and Europe. British Wildlife Publishing, DorsetGoogle Scholar
  15. Felsenstein J (1985) Phylogenies and the comparative method. Am Nat 125:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Förschler MI, Bairlein F (2011) Morphological shifts of the external flight apparatus across the range of a Passerine (Northern Wheatear) with diverging migratory behaviour. PLoS ONE 6:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Freckleton RP, Harvey PH, Pagel M (2002) Phylogenetic analysis and comparative data: a test and review of evidence. Am Nat 160:712–726PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Grabow K, Rüppel G (1995) Wing loading in relation to size and flight characteristics of European Odonata. Odonatologica 24:175–186Google Scholar
  19. Greenewalt CH (1962) Dimensional relationships for flying animals. Smithson Misc Coll 144:1–46Google Scholar
  20. Hardersen S (2010) Seasonal variation of wing spot allometry in Calopteryx splendens (Odonata: Calopterygidae). Ethol Ecol Evol 22:365–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Harvey PH, Pagel MD (1991) The comparative method in evolutionary biology. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  22. Hasegawa E, Kasuya E (2006) Phylogenetic analysis of the insect order Odonata using 28S and 16S rDNA sequences: a comparison between data sets with different evolutionary rates. Entomol Sci 9:55–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Johansson F, Söderquist M, Bokma F (2009) Insect wing shape evolution: independent effects of migratory and mate guarding flight on dragonfly wings. Biol J Lin Soc 97:362–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jolicoeur P (1990) Bivariate allometry: interval estimation of the slope of the ordinary and standardized normal major axes and structural relationship. J Theor Biol 144:275–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kaboli M, Aliabadian M, Guillaumet A, Roselaar C, Prodon R (2007) Ecomorphology of the wheatears (genus Oenanthe). Ibis 149:792–805CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kaitaniemi P (2004) Testing the allometric scaling laws. J Theor Biol 228:149–153PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kembel SW, Cowan PD, Helmus MR, Cornwell WK, Morlon H, Ackerly DD, Blomberg SP, Webb CO (2010) Picante: R tools for integrating phylogenies and ecology. Bioinform Appl Notes 11:1463–1464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Knell RJ, Pomfret JC, Tomkins JL (2003) The limits of the elaboration: curved allometries reveal the constraints on mandible size in stag beetles. Proc R Soc Lond Serb 271:523–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Koenig WD, Albano SS (1987) Lifetime reproductive success, selection, and the opportunity for selection in the White-tailed Skimmer Plathemis lydia (Odonata: Libellulidae). Evolution 41:22–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Malmqvist B (2000) How does wing length relate to distribution patterns of stoneflies (Plecoptera) and mayflies (Ephemeroptera)? Biol Conserv 93:271–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. May ML (1981) Wingstroke frequency of dragonflies (Odonata: Anisoptera) in relation of temperature and body size. J Comp Physiol B 144:229–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Needham JG, Westfall MJ, May ML (2000) Dragonflies of North America. Scientific Publishers, GainesvilleGoogle Scholar
  33. Norberg UM (1995) How a long tail and changes in mass and wing shape affect the cost for flight in animals. Funct Ecol 9:48–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nudds RL (2007) Wing-bone length allometry in birds. J Avian Biol 38:515–519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Olberg RM, Worthington AH, Venator KR (2000) Prey pursuit and interception in dragonflies. J Comp Physiol A 186:155–162PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Paulson DR (2004) Why do some zygopterans (Odonata) perch with open wings? Int J Odonatol 7:505–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rehn AC (2003) Phylogenetic analysis of higher-level relationships of Odonata. Sys Biol 28:181–239Google Scholar
  38. Revell LJ, Harmon LJ, Collar DC (2008) Phylogenetic signal, evolutionary process, and rate. Sys Biol 57:591–601CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Roff DA (1990) The evolution of flightlessness in insects. Ecol Monogr 60:389–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rundle SD, Bilton DT, Abbott J, Foggo A (2007) Range size in North American Enallagma damselflies correlates with wing size. Fresh Biol 52:471–477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rüppel G (1989) Kinematic analysis of symmetrical flight manoeuvres of Odonata. J Exp Biol 144:13–42Google Scholar
  42. Russell RW, May ML, Soltesz KL, Fitzpatrick JW (1998) Massive swarm migrations of dragonflies (Odonata) in Eastern North America. Am Midl Nat 140:325–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Saux C, Simon C, Spicer GS (2003) Phylogeny of the dragonfly and damselfly order Odonata as inferred by mitochondrial 12S ribosomal RNA sequences. Ann Ent Soc Am 96:693–699CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Serrano-Meneses MA, Córdoba-Aguilar A, Méndez V, Layen SJ, Székely T (2007) Sexual size dimorphism in the American rubyspot: male body size predicts male competition and mating success. Anim Behav 73:987–997CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sokal RR, Rolph FJ (2012) Biometry: the principles and practice of statistics in biological research, 4th edn. Freeman and Co., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  46. Stern DL, Moon A, Martinez del Rio C (1996) Caste allometries in the soldier-producing aphid Pseudoregma alexanderi (Hormaphididae: Aphidoidea). Ins Soc 43:137–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Taylor PD, Merriam G (1995) Wing morphology of a forest damselfly is related to landscape structure. Oikos 73:43–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Teuscher M, Brändle M, Traxel V, Brandl R (2009) Allometry between leg and body length of insects: lack of support for the size-grain hypothesis. Ecol Entomol 34:718–724CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. van Dyck H, Matthysen E, Dhondt AA (1997) Mate-locating strategies are related to relative body length and wing colour in the speckled wood butterfly Pararge aegeria. Ecol Entomol 22:116–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wakeling JM (1997) Odonatan wing and body morphologies. Odonatologica 26:35–52Google Scholar
  51. Wang X, McGowan AJ, Dyke GJ (2011) Avian wing proportions and flight styles: first step towards predicting the flight modes of mesozoic birds. PLoS ONE 6:e28672. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028672 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Warton DI, Wright IJ, Falster DS, Westoby M (2006) Bivariate line-fitting methods for allometry. Biol Rev 81:259–291PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Warton DI, Duursma R, Falster DS, Taskinen S (2011) smatr: (standardised) major axis estimation and testing routines. R package version 3.2.2. http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=smatr
  54. Westfall MJ, May ML (1996) Damselflies of North America. Scientific Publishers, GainesvilleGoogle Scholar
  55. Wootton RJ (1991) The functional morphology of the wings of Odonata. Adv Odonatol 5:153–169Google Scholar
  56. Wootton RJ, Newman JS (2008) Evolution, diversification, and mechanics of dragonfly wings. In: Córdoba-Aguilar A (ed) Dragonflies and damselflies—model organisms for ecological and evolutionary research. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 261–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra e dell’AmbienteUniversità di PaviaPaviaItaly
  2. 2.Centro Nazionale per lo Studio e la Conservazione della Biodiversità Forestale “Bosco Fontana” di VeronaCorpo Forestale dello StatoMarmiroloItaly

Personalised recommendations