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A study of the diversity and geographical variation in numbers of leg-bearing segments in centipedes (Chilopoda: Geophilomorpha) in north-western Europe

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Five species of geophilomorphs, Strigamia maritima (Leach, 1817), Geophilus flavus (De Geer, 1778), Geophilus truncorum Bergsøe and Meinert, 1866, Geophilus proximus C. L. Koch, 1847, and Pachymerium ferrugineum (C. L. Koch, 1835), from various sample sites in north-western Europe were examined for numbers of leg-bearing segments. Where data was adequate, mean segment numbers were correlated with latitudinal gradients for each species. Solely in S. maritima and some populations of P. ferrugineum did the results show a highly significant geographic pattern towards more leg-bearing segments in southern populations of both sexes. As concerns G. proximus, we presented for the first time a remarkable geographic shift towards an increased number of pairs of legs in northern populations. Contrary to the conventional geographic pattern, we found that G. flavus and G. truncorum did not exhibit a north–south increase or decrease in segment number. Although there was no general/universal evidence supporting the occurrence of a significant regression slope between mean segment number and latitude/temperature, more information shows that the overall region-to-region segment variation was highly significant in both sexes. In S. maritima and P. ferrugineum mean segment number was correlated with the north–south temperature cline. The same was not observed in G. proximus. Parthenogenesis in G. proximus, and a series of ecological characteristics such as habitat preferences, spatial distribution, and fragmented populations could explain the presence or absence of a geographic patterning of segment number variation along a latitudinal cline. © 2010 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2010, 100, 899–909.

Keywords: Geophilus; Pachymerium; Scandinavia; Strigamia; intraspecific variation; latitudinal cline; modal value; segment number

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Attaché au Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (MNHN – DSE USM 602) 67, Av. Estienne d'Orves, FR-06000 Nice, France 2: Bergen Museum, De Naturhistoriske Samlinger, University of Bergen, Muséplass 3, PO Box 7800, N-5020 Bergen, Norway 3: Göteborgs Naturhistoriska Museum, PO Box 7283, SE-40235 Göteborg, Sweden 4: University of Bergen, Department of Biology, Allegaten 41, N-5007 Bergen, Norway

Publication date: August 1, 2010

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