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Am Nat. 2010 Nov;176(5):566-72. doi: 10.1086/656491.

Ecology of sexual dimorphism and clinal variation of coloration in a damselfly.

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Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Sexual selection, more so than natural selection, is posited as the major cause of sex differences. Here I show ecological correlations between solar radiation levels and sexual dimorphism in body color of a Hawaiian damselfly. Megalagrion calliphya exhibits sexual monomorphism at high elevations, where both sexes are red in color; sexual dimorphism at low elevations, where females are green; and female‐limited dimorphism at midelevations, where both red and green females exist. Within a midelevation population, red females are also more prevalent during high daily levels of solar radiation. I found that red pigmentation is correlated with superior antioxidant ability that may protect from UV damage and confer a benefit to damselflies in exposed habitats, including males, which defend exposed mating habitats at all elevations, and females, which are in shaded habitats except at high elevation. This study characterizes the ecology of sexual dimorphism and provides a new, ecological hypothesis for the evolution of female‐limited dimorphism.

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