Ethological uniqueness of a damselfly with no near relatives: the relevance of behaviour as part of biodiversity

Cordero-Rivera, A.  Zhang, H. 


Taxonomically isolated species may contribute unique characters to biological diversity, particularly at the level of ethodiversity. To test this idea, we analysed the territorial and reproductive behaviour of Pseudolestes mirabilis(Zygoptera, Pseudolestidae), an endemic damselfly from Hainan island, China, and the only representative of its family. Our hypothesis was that the uniqueness of this taxon would be evident in its behaviour. We found that the agonistic encounters between males were usually very short (less than 2 min) and consisted of a face–to–face display with both males maintaining a close distance while flying using only the forewings. No other odonate flies with only two wings in territorial contests. Furthermore, a small proportion of fights were escalated and lasted about one hour, with clear exhibition of the coloured hindwings. Males also confronted wasps (Eustenogaster nigra) that used the same microhabitat in a similar way, albeit for short time. Females were found in low numbers. This limited copulatory frequency and most males did not mate in the whole day. Unexpectedly for a damselfly with coloured wings, precopulatory courtship was almost absent, suggesting that intrasexual selection is behind the evolution of coloured wings in this species. Copulation lasted an average of seven minutes, with a first stage of rivals’ sperm removal (64 % of sperm removed) and a second stage of insemination. In agreement with our initial hypothesis, copulatory behaviour was unique: males did not translocate sperm to their vesicle before each mating but translocated sperm after copulation, a behaviour that cannot be easily explained. These exclusive characteristics point to the relevance of this species as an exceptional taxon that merits high conservation priority.

Key words

Ethodiversity, Odonata, China, Pseudolestes mirabilis, Sexual selection, Sperm competition

Reception date: 27 IV 17 | Acceptation date: 08 VIII 17 | Publication date: 29 X 17

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