Female polymorphism and colour variability in <i>Argia oculata</i> (Coenagrionidae: Zygoptera)

<p>Body colouration frequently possesses a communicative function, particularly in species with colour polymorphism and developed visual systems as odonates, and also affects the conspicuousness of animals in relation to the background. Therefore, these factors can influence colour evolution and its development. The ecology and ethology of <i>Argia oculata</i> (Hagen in Selys, 1865) were studied in three populations with different degrees of habitat alteration. Three different sources of colour variability were found: female polymorphism, female ontogenetic change and daily change in both sexes. All males observed presented the same blue thoracic colouration pattern, without ontogenetic changes. Some of them (6–48%, variable between populations) showed a darkening of the thorax colouration in the afternoon. The frequency of androchrome females (male-like thoracic colouration) showed a negative relationship with human habitat disturbance. These females changed their body colour from bluish to brownish at old ages. Gynochrome females started their adult life with sky-blue thorax, which turned to olive green and finally to brown with sexual maturation. One gynochrome female returned to the immature colouration in late hours of the day. Colour changes were apparently not associated to sunlight intensity or temperature. Behavioural observations suggest that colour variability in females might contribute to reduce or avoid male harassment. We contextualise our findings in the <i>Argia</i> literature and propose physiological and evolutionary mechanisms for their explanation.</p>