Evolutionary Ecology

, 22:103 | Cite as

Ontogeny of sexual dimorphism and phenotypic integration in heritable morphs

  • Jessica K. Abbott
  • Erik I. Svensson
Original Paper


In this study we investigated the developmental basis of adult phenotypes in a non-model organism, a polymorphic damselfly (Ischnura elegans) with three female colour morphs. This polymorphic species presents an ideal opportunity to study intraspecific variation in growth trajectories, morphological variation in size and shape during the course of ontogeny, and to relate these juvenile differences to the phenotypic differences of the discrete adult phenotypes; the two sexes and the three female morphs. We raised larvae of different families in individual enclosures in the laboratory, and traced morphological changes during the course of ontogeny. We used principal components analysis to examine the effects of Sex, Maternal morph, and Own morph on body size and body shape. We also investigated the larval fitness consequences of variation in size and shape by relating these factors to emergence success. Females grew faster than males and were larger as adults, and there was sexual dimorphism in body shape in both larval and adult stages. There were also significant effects of both maternal morph and own morph on growth rate and body shape in the larval stage. There were significant differences in body shape, but not body size, between the adult female morphs, indicating phenotypic integration between colour, melanin patterning, and body shape. Individuals that emerged successfully grew faster and had different body shape in the larval stage, indicating internal (non-ecological) selection on larval morphology. Overall, morphological differences between individuals at the larval stage carried over to the adult stage. Thus, selection in the larval stage can potentially result in correlated responses in adult phenotypes and vice versa.


Alternative phenotypes Antagonistic selection Complex life-cycle Correlational selection Mimicry Sexual conflict 



We are grateful to S. Baumgartner for supplying Drosophila, and to A. Coreau, H. Hogfors and M. Gustafsson for assistance in the laboratory and in the field. We also wish to thank R. Härdling, T. Gosden, F. Eroukmanhoff, K. Karlsson, and H. Ivarsson for comments on the first draft of this manuscript. This study is part of a long-term study of the ecological genetics and evolutionary biology of I. elegans. Financial support has been provided by the Swedish Research Council and Oscar & Lilli Lamms Stiftelse (to E. S.).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section for Animal EcologyLund UniversityLundSweden

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