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Broad-scale patterns of body size in squamate reptiles of Europe and North America

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Abstract Aim 

To document geographical interspecific patterns of body size of European and North American squamate reptile assemblages and explore the relationship between body size patterns and environmental gradients. Location 

North America and western Europe. Methods 

We processed distribution maps for native species of squamate reptiles to document interspecific spatial variation of body size at a grain size of 110 × 110 km. We also examined seven environmental variables linked to four hypotheses possibly influencing body size gradients. We used simple and multiple regression, evaluated using information theory, to identify the set of models best supported by the data. Results 

Europe is characterized by clear latitudinal trends in body size, whereas geographical variation in body size in North America is complex. There is a consistent association of mean body size with measures of ambient energy in both regions, although lizards increase in size northwards whereas snakes show the opposite pattern. Our best models accounted for almost 60% of the variation in body size of lizards and snakes within Europe, but the proportions of variance explained in North America were less than 20%. Main conclusions 

Although body size influences the energy balance of thermoregulating ectotherms, inconsistent biogeographical patterns and contrasting associations with energy in lizards and snakes suggest that no single mechanism can explain variation of reptile body size in the northern temperate zone.
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Keywords: Bergmann's rule; Europe; North America; body size gradients; macroecology; squamate reptiles; thermoregulation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Ecology, University of Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, Spain 2: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2006

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