Comparative phylogeography uncovers evolutionary past of Holarctic dragonflies

Manpreet Kohli, Marie Djernæs, Melissa Sanchez Herrera, Göran Sahlen, Erik Pilgrim, Thomas J. Simonsen, Kent Olsen, Jessica Ware

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Here, we investigate the evolutionary history of five northern dragonfly species to evaluate what role the last glaciation period may have played in their current distributions. We look at the population structure and estimate divergence times for populations of the following species: Aeshna juncea (Linnaeus), Aeshna subarctica Walker, Sympetrum danae (Sulzer), Libellula quadrimaculata Linnaeus and Somatochlora sahlbergi Trybom across their Holarctic range. Our results suggest a common phylogeographic pattern across all species except for S. sahlbergi. First, we find that North American and European populations are genetically distinct and have perhaps been separated for more than 400,000 years. Second, our data suggests that, based on genetics, populations from the Greater Beringian region (Beringia, Japan and China) have haplotypes that cluster with North America or Europe depending on the species rather than having a shared geographic affinity. This is perhaps a result of fluctuating sea levels and ice sheet coverage during the Quaternary period that influenced dispersal routes and refugia. Indeed, glacial Beringia may have been as much a transit zone as a refugia for dragonflies. Somatochlora sahlbergi shows no genetic variation across its range and therefore does not share the geographic patterns found in the other circumboreal dragonflies studied here. Lastly, we discuss the taxonomic status of Sympetrum danae, which our results indicate is a species complex comprising two species, one found in Eurasia through Beringia, and the other in North America east and south of Beringia. Through this study we present a shared history among different species from different families of dragonflies, which are influenced by the climatic fluctuations of the past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere11338
StatePublished - Jun 24 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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