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Moth body size increases with elevation along a complete tropical elevational gradient for two hyperdiverse clades

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The body size of an animal is probably its most important functional trait. For arthropods, environmental drivers of body size variation are still poorly documented and understood, especially in tropical regions. We use a unique dataset for two species‐rich, phylogenetically independent moth taxa (Lepidoptera: Geometridae; Arctiinae), collected along an extensive tropical elevational gradient in Costa Rica, to investigate the correlates and possible causes of body‐size variation. We studied 15 047 specimens (794 species) of Geometridae and 4167 specimens (308 species) of Arctiinae to test the following hypotheses: 1) body size increases with decreasing ambient temperature, as predicted by the temperature–size rule; 2) body size increases with increasing rainfall and primary productivity, as predicted from considerations of starvation resistance; and 3) body size scales allometrically with wing area, as elevation increases, such that wing loading (the ratio of body size to wing area) decreases with increasing elevation to compensate for lower air density.
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Keywords: Bergmann's rule; temperature–size rule; wing loading

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2019

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