The evolutionary history of colour polymorphism in Ischnura damselflies

Rosa A. Sánchez-Guillén, Adolfo Cordero-Rivera, Anais Rivas-Torres, Maren Wellenreuther, Seth Bybee, Bengt Hansson, María I. Velasquez-Vélez, Emilio Realpe, Jesús R. Chávez-Ríos, Fabricio Villalobos, Henri Dumont

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A major challenge in evolutionary biology consists of understanding how genetic and phenotypic variation is created and maintained. In this study, we investigated the origin(s) and evolutionary patterns of the female-limited colour polymorphism in ischnuran damselflies. These consist of the presence of one to three colour morphs: one androchrome morph with a coloration that is similar to the male and two gynochrome morphs (infuscans and aurantiaca) with female-specific coloration. We (i) documented the colour and mating system of 44 of the 75 taxa within the genus Ischnura, (ii) reconstructed the evolutionary history of colour and mating system to identify the ancestral state, (iii) evaluated the stability of the colour morph status over time and (iv) tested for a correlation between colour and mating system. We found that the ancestral female colour of Ischnura was monomorphic and aurantiaca and that colour morph status changed over time, characterized by many gains and losses across the species tree. Our results further showed that colour polymorphism is significantly more frequent among polyandric species, whereas monandric species tend to be monomorphic. Research on some Ischnura species has shown that colour morphs have evolved to reduce male mating harassment, and our finding that the same phenotypic morphs have evolved multiple times (convergent evolution) suggests that several species in this genus might be experiencing similar selective pressures.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of evolutionary biology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2018 Jan 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Evolutionary Biology

Free keywords

  • Ancestral state
  • Colour polymorphism
  • Comparative method
  • Correlated evolution
  • Damselflies


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