UA Part of National Project to Study Dragonfly, Damselfly Evolution

An international team of researchers that includes The University of Alabama are collecting and analyzing data for the insect order Odonata that contains dragonflies and damselflies to share through an online database available to all researchers.

Supported by the National Science Foundation, data on the evolutionary relationships, ecological niches and geographic area will be used to study how factors like mobility, color, habitat, niche and distribution have driven the diversification of dragonflies and damselflies through evolutionary time. It will result in the most comprehensive database on the phylogeny, ecology and distribution of any insect order.

The database will be available online at odonatacentral.org, a website created more than 15 years ago and maintained by Dr. John C. Abbott, chief curator and director of research and collections for University of Alabama Museums.

“This project is truly the first of its kind for an entire insect order,” Abbott said. “Our efforts will provide tools for Odonata to become the standard as global bioindicators of the endangered freshwater habitat in the midst of human-induced global change and habitat loss.”