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Data from: Colour lightness of dragonfly assemblages across North America and Europe

Cite this dataset

Pinkert, Stefan; Brandl, Roland; Zeuss, Dirk (2016). Data from: Colour lightness of dragonfly assemblages across North America and Europe [Dataset]. Dryad.


Dark-coloured ectotherms absorb energy from the environment at higher rates than light-coloured ectotherms. The thermal melanism hypothesis (TMH) states that this physical mechanism links the colour lightness of the body surfaces of ectotherms to their thermal environment and hence to their geographical distribution. Studies on different insect taxa in Europe found support for this prediction of the TMH. However, whether these results hold also for other biogeographical regions remains unclear. Here, we quantify and map the colour lightness of dragonfly species in North America and directly compare our results to previously published findings for Europe. We estimated the colour lightness of 152 North American dragonfly species from published illustrations, compiled their distribution data from the literature and combined all these data with six biologically relevant environmental variables. We evaluated the importance of phylogenetic autocorrelation for the spatial variation of mean colour lightness of dragonfly assemblages (grid cells of approximately 50 km × 50 km size) by repeating all analyses also for the phylogenetically predicted component of the colour lightness of species and the species-specific deviation from this prediction. We also accounted for spatial autocorrelation with autoregressive error models. All statistical approaches showed that dragonfly assemblages from both continents consistently tended to be darker coloured in regions with cold climates and lighter coloured in regions with warm climates. Regression slopes, however, were significantly less steep, and the amount of variance explained by environmental variables was lower for North America than for Europe. Our results highlight the importance of colour lightness for the distribution of dragonfly species, but they also indicate that idiosyncrasies of the continents modify the general pattern.

Usage notes


North America