University of Oulu

Lehtonen, T.K., Babic, N.L., Piepponen, T. et al. High road mortality during female-biased larval dispersal in an iconic beetle. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 75, 26 (2021).

High road mortality during female-biased larval dispersal in an iconic beetle

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Author: Lehtonen, Topi K.1,2,3; Babic, Natarsha L.2,4; Piepponen, Timo1,2;
Organizations: 1Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu, Post Box 3000, 90014, Oulu, Finland
2Tvärminne Zoological Station, University of Helsinki, J.A. Palménin tie 260, 10900, Hanko, Finland
3Organismal and Evolutionary Biology, University of Helsinki, PO Box 65, 00014, Helsinki, Finland
4School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton Campus, Melbourne, Victoria, 3800, Australia
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-03-29


Animals often disperse from one habitat to another to access mates or suitable breeding sites. The costs and benefits of such movements depend, in part, on the dispersing individuals’ phenotypes, including their sex and age. Here we investigated dispersal and road-related mortality in larvae of a bioluminescent beetle, the European common glow-worm, Lampyris noctiluca, in relation to habitat, sex and proximity of pupation. We expected these variables to be relevant to larval dispersal because adult females are wingless, whereas adult males fly when searching for glowing females. We found that dispersing glow-worm larvae were almost exclusively females and close to pupation. The larvae were often found on a road, where they were able to move at relatively high speeds, with a tendency to uphill orientation. However, each passing vehicle caused a high mortality risk, and we found large numbers of larvae run over by cars, especially close to covered, forest-like habitat patches. In contrast, adult females in the same area were most often found glowing in more open rocky and grassy habitats. These findings demonstrate an underappreciated ecological strategy, sex-biased dispersal at larval phase, motivated by different habitat needs of larvae and wingless adult females. The results are also consistent with roads being an ecological trap, facilitating dispersal and presumably females’ signal visibility but causing severe larval mortality just before the reproductive stage. Hence, in addition to the previously recognised threats of urbanisation, even low traffic volumes have a high potential to negatively affect especially females of this iconic beetle.

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Series: Behavioral ecology and sociobiology
ISSN: 0340-5443
ISSN-E: 1432-0762
ISSN-L: 0340-5443
Volume: 75
Issue: 1
Article number: 26
DOI: 10.1007/s00265-020-02962-6
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
1184 Genetics, developmental biology, physiology
Funding: Open Access funding provided by University of Oulu including Oulu University Hospital. The work was supported by the Academy of Finland (to AK, TKL, AMB and OV, grant number 294664).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 294664
Detailed Information: 294664 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
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