Ancient responses to new challenges: ecology and evolution of the Odonata (ODOEVO2011)

  • Team:
  • Category:International Research Project
  • 2012 to 2015


The Odonata are a group of 30 families with about 6000 species, originated in the Upper Carboniferous, although modern groups evolved during the Jurassic and the Cretaceous. Morphologically odonates have changed slightly since then, but they are not primitive, and for this reason we have selected the title Ancient responses to new challenges.

In this application we use a multidisciplinary perspective to study the evolution of sexual behaviour, genitalia and alternative mating tactics. Further on, we build on the results of grant CG2008-02799 to propose an overview of the evolution of genitalia in the Zygoptera (aprox. 2700 species). One of the most important debates in evolutionary biology focuses on why sexual reproduction is predominant in nature, despite its numerous costs. Here we propose to use Ischnura hastata, the only known parthenogenetic damselfly, to test theories about the evolution and maintenance of sex, and particularly the Red Queen hypothesis. I. hastata is also an excellent model to study the nature and significance of “selfish” genetic elements, like transposons.

We recently reviewed the evolution and maintenance of alternative colour morphs in odonates. This topic is still debated, and has generated a fruitful body of research in the last two decades. We will continue the study of the maintenance of colour morphs in the Coenagrionidae, and will study the behaviour and polymorphism in the sole member of the family Thaumatoneuridae, an endemic of the mountains of Costa Rica and Panama, and in one representative of the Polythoridae. We will compare survivorship and resighting rates in polymorphic species using modern mark-recapture methods.

The third goal of this application relates to sexual selection and animal genitalia. With the help of several colleagues from around the world, we will be able to obtain at least one representative of each family of the Zygoptera, and to study some of the most intriguing species of the suborder. This will allow us to make a comprehensive analysis of sperm competition mechanisms and other postcopulatory sexual selection processes and map them in the phylogeny.


Funding Institution

Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación/Gobierno de España.


PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR:Professor Adolfo Cordero Rivera.

INTERNATIONAL TEAM: Adolfo Cordero Rivera, Alejandro Córdoba Aguilar, Chris Beatty, Carlos Esquivel, Chris Hassall, Carlo Utzeri, Haomiao Zhang, Ivette Galicia Mendoza, María Calviño Cancela, new FPI student; hired PhD, Pere Luque, Phill Watts, Rosa Ana Sánchez Guillén, Robby Stoks, Tom Sherratt, Virgilio Vieira.

INSTITUTIONS INVOLVED: Universidad de Vigo (Spain), Università la Sapienza di Roma (Italy), Universidade dos Açores (Portugal), Consorci del Museu Comarcal del Montsia (Spain), University of Liverpool (UK), Universidad San Francisco de Quito (Ecuador), South China Agricultural University (China), Universidad Autónoma de México (Mexico), University of Carleton (Canada), Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica (Costa Rica), Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium).