Bergmann's rule is maintained during a rapid range expansion in a damselfly

Climate-induced range shifts result in the movement of a sample of genotypes from source populations to new regions. The phenotypic consequences of those shifts depend upon the sample characteristics of the dispersive genotypes, which may act to either constrain or promote phenotypic divergence, and the degree to which plasticity influences the genotype–environment interaction. We sampled populations of the damselfly Erythromma viridulum from northern Europe to quantify the phenotypic (latitude–body size relationship based on seven morphological traits) and genetic (variation at microsatellite loci) patterns that occur during a range expansion itself. We find a weak spatial genetic structure that is indicative of high gene flow during a rapid range expansion. Despite the potentially homogenizing effect of high gene flow, however, there is extensive phenotypic variation among samples along the invasion route that manifests as a strong, positive correlation between latitude and body size consistent with Bergmann's rule. This positive correlation cannot be explained by variation in the length of larval development (voltinism). While the adaptive significance of latitudinal variation in body size remains obscure, geographical patterns in body size in odonates are apparently underpinned by phenotypic plasticity and this permits a response to one or more environmental correlates of latitude during a range expansion.