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J Evol Biol. 2004 Jul;17(4):759-67.

Interspecific aggression and character displacement in the damselfly Calopteryx splendens.

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  • 1Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, Finland.


Problems in species recognition are thought to affect the evolution of secondary sexual characters mainly through avoidance of maladaptive hybridization. Another, but much less studied avenue for the evolution of sexual characters due to species recognition problems is through interspecific aggression. In the damselfly, Calopteryx splendens, males have pigmented wing spots as a sexual character. Large-spotted males resemble males of another species, Calopteryx virgo, causing potential problems in species recognition. In this study, we investigate whether there is character displacement in wing spot size and whether interspecific aggression could cause this pattern. We found first that wing spot size of C. splendens in populations decreased with increasing relative abundance of C. virgo. Secondly, C. virgo males were more aggressive towards large- than small-spotted C. splendens males. Thirdly, in interspecific contests C. virgo males had better territory holding ability than C. splendens males. These results suggest that interspecific aggression may have caused character displacement in wing spot size of C. splendens, because the intensity of aggression towards large-spotted males is likely to increase with relative abundance of C. virgo males. Thus, interspecific aggression may be an evolutionarily significant force that is able to cause divergence in secondary sexual characters.

Copyright 2004 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

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