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Multiple routes to reduced interspecific territorial fighting in Hetaerina damselflies


  • Christopher N. Anderson
  • Gregory F. Grether


Interspecific territoriality may be adaptive if territories contain depletable resources that are valuable to both species, but it can also arise as a maladaptive by-product of intraspecific territoriality. In the latter scenario, sympatric species ought to diverge in ways that reduce interspecific fighting. We studied 4 Hetaerina damselfly species that can be found in sympatry in North America. Prior work showed that sympatric populations have diverged from each other in wing coloration and competitor recognition in 2 of the 4 sympatric species pairs (H. titia/H. occisa, H. titia/H. americana). Here, we show that sympatric populations of these 2 species pairs overlap completely in habitat use, and yet, interspecific territorial fights occur much less frequently than intraspecific fights. Experimentally manipulating the wing coloration of male H. occisa and H. americana to more closely resemble H. titia increased the rate of interspecific fights, which provides direct evidence that divergence in wing coloration is partly responsible for the low rate of interspecific fights. We found that interspecific fighting is also reduced in the other 2 species pairs (H. occisa/H. cruentata, H. americana/H. cruentata), even though prior work showed that heterospecific territory intruders are attacked just as aggressively as conspecific territory intruders. In these cases, however, the sympatric species differ sufficiently in habitat use to reduce the interspecific encounter rate and thereby account for the reduced rate of interspecific fighting. Thus, interspecific fighting is reduced relative to intraspecific fighting in all 4 species pairs, albeit through different mechanisms. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher N. Anderson & Gregory F. Grether, 2011. "Multiple routes to reduced interspecific territorial fighting in Hetaerina damselflies," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 22(3), pages 527-534.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:3:p:527-534

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