Latitudinal insect body size clines revisited: a critical evaluation of the saw-tooth model.

Research paper by Sami M SM Kivelä, Panu P Välimäki, David D Carrasco, Maarit I MI Mäenpää, Jari J Oksanen

Indexed on: 25 May '11Published on: 25 May '11Published in: Journal of Animal Ecology


1. Insect body size is predicted to increase with decreasing latitude because time available for growth increases. In insects with changing voltinism (i.e. number of generations per season), sharp decreases in development time and body size are expected at season lengths where new generations are added to the phenology of a species, giving rise to saw-tooth clines in these traits across latitudes. Growth rate variation may affect the magnitude of variation in body size or even reverse the saw-tooth cline. 2. In this study, we analyse latitudinal body size clines in four geometrid moths with changing voltinism in a common laboratory environment. In addition to body size, we measured larval development time and growth rate and genetic correlations among the three traits. 3. The patterns of clinal variation in body size were diverse, and the theory was not supported even when saw-tooth body size clines were found. Larval development time increased and growth rate decreased consistently with increasing season length, the clines in these traits being uniform. 4. The consistencies of development time and growth rate clines suggest a common mechanism underlying the observations. Such a mechanism is discussed in relation to the complex interdependencies among the traits.