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Body size–climate relationships of European spiders

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Abstract Aim 

Geographic body size patterns of mammals and birds can be partly understood under the framework of Bergmann’s rule. Climatic influences on body size of invertebrates, however, appear highly variable and lack a comparable, generally applicable theoretical framework. We derived predictions for body size–climate relationships for spiders from the literature and tested them using three datasets of variable spatial extent and grain. Location 

Europe. Methods 

To distinguish climate from space, we compared clines in body size within three datasets with different degrees of co-variation between latitude and climate. These datasets were: (1) regional spider faunas from 40 European countries and large islands; (2) local spider assemblages from standardized samples in 32 habitats across Europe; and (3) local spider assemblages from Central European habitats. In the latter dataset climatic conditions were determined more by habitat type than by geographic position, and therefore this dataset provided a non-spatial gradient of various microclimates. Spider body size was studied in relation to latitude, temperature and water availability. Results 

In all three datasets the mean body size of spider assemblages increased from cool/moist to warm/dry environments. This increase could be accounted for by turnover from small-bodied to large-bodied spider families. Body size–climate relationships within families were inconsistent. Main conclusions 

Starvation resistance and accelerated maturation can be ruled out as explanations for the body size clines recorded, because they predict the inverse of the observed relationship between spider body size and temperature. The relationship between body size and climate was partly independent of geographic position. Thus, the restriction of large-bodied spiders to their glacial refugia owing to dispersal limitations can be excluded. Our results are consistent with mechanisms invoking metabolic rate, desiccation resistance and community interactions to predict a decrease in body size from warm and dry to cool and moist conditions.
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Keywords: Araneae; Bergmann’s rule; Europe; family sorting; latitude; moisture; precipitation; temperature

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 6, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland 2: Ecology and Evolution, University of Fribourg, Chemin du Musée 10, CH-1700 Fribourg, Switzerland 3: Animal Ecology, Philipps-University Marburg, Karl-von-Frisch-Strasse, D-35032 Marburg, Germany

Publication date: 2010-03-01

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