Paper on polymorphisms in Polythore damselflies available from PLOS One

Our latest paper on the very colorful Polythore damselflies of Andean South America is now available from PLOS One:

Mixed Signals? Morphological and Molecular Evidence Suggest a Color Polymorphism in Some Neotropical Polythore Damselflies

These damselflies have highly diverse wing colors, with black, orange and white patterns combined in the same wing (see the banner at the top of this page for one example, a male of Polythore ornata).  These are more complex wings patterns than those seen in the majority of damselfly species, and normally we would expect that each of these different patterns is carried by a different species, and serves as a signal of identity during mating.  However, our initial analysis suggests otherwise;  a comparison with genetic sequences among several individuals with different wing color patterns shows that, in some cases, individuals with identical genetic sequences carry very different wing patterns, and that other individuals with more diverse genetics carry the same wing pattern.

There are a few reasons that this could happen: these species could be in the process of forming, with hybridization between individuals with different wingforms being common.  It could also be that selective pressures other than mating are behind the evolution of these colors.  One suggestion is that there might be selection for these damselflies to resemble co-occuring toxic butterflies, gaining protection from predators through resembling defended organisms (a type of mimicry known as Batesian mimicry).  Our current data cannot test these different theories, so more work will be required...