Territoriality in Aquatic Insects

  • Gregory F. GretherEmail author


Research on territoriality has barely progressed beyond the descriptive stage in most aquatic insects, but some territorial species have been studied intensively and served as model organisms for testing certain aspects of evolutionary theory. After providing a brief introduction to territoriality in general, I review the taxonomic distribution and types of territoriality reported in aquatic insects, before delving into more theoretical topics. Larval feeding territories have been described in aquatic insects of several orders (Diptera, Ephemeroptera, Odonata, Plecoptera, Trichoptera), while adult feeding and mating territories have only been reported in Odonata (damselflies and dragonflies) and Hemiptera (water striders and ripple bugs). With mostly Odonata examples, I review the following subjects more critically: (1) determinants of territorial status and the outcome of territorial contests, (2) territorial signals and cues, (3) persistence of interspecific territoriality, and (4) agonistic character displacement. Important advances have been made in each of these areas using aquatic insects, but persistent methodological issues have also impeded progress. I offer some general advice for studying territoriality and conclude by identifying areas where more research is needed.


Territorial behavior Contests Character displacement Agonistic interactions 



I thank Rhainer Guillermo-Ferreira and Kleber Del-Claro for inviting me to write this chapter and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on a previous draft. My research on Hetaerina damselflies has been funded by multiple grants from the National Science Foundation and the University of California.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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