A genetic analysis of dragonfly population structure

Payton Phillips, Bradley J. Swanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Dragonflies reside in both aquatic and terrestrial environments, depending on their life stage, necessitating the conservation of drastically different habitats; however, little is understood about how nymph and adult dragonflies function as metapopulations within connected habitat. We used genetic techniques to examine nymphs and adults within a single metapopulation both spatially and temporally to better understand metapopulation structure and the processes that might influence said structure. We sampled 97 nymphs and 149 adult Sympetrum obtrusum from eight locations, four aquatic, and four terrestrial, at the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Southwest Michigan over two summers. We performed AFLP genetic analysis and used the Bayesian analysis program STRUCTURE to detect genetic clusters from sampled individuals. STRUCTURE detected k = u4 populations, in which nymphs and adults from the same locations collected in different years did not necessarily fall into the same clusters. We also evaluated grouping using the statistical clustering analyses NMDS and MRPP. The results of these confirmed findings from STRUCTURE and emphasized differences between adults collected in 2012 and all other generations. These results suggest that both dispersal and a temporal cycle of emergence of nymphs from unique clusters every other year could be influential in structuring dragonfly populations, although our methods were not able to fully distinguish the influences of either force. This study provides a better understanding of local dragonfly metapopulation structure and provides a starting point for future studies to investigate the spatial and temporal mechanisms controlling metapopulation structure. The results of the study should prove informative for managers working to preserve genetic diversity in connected dragonfly metapopulations, especially in the face of increasing anthropogenic landscape changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7206-7215
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2018


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