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J Evol Biol. 2008 Jan;21(1):162-72. Epub 2007 Nov 14.

A comparison between desert and Mediterranean antlion populations: differences in life history and morphology.

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  • 1Department of Life Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel.


We performed a transplant experiment to compare the life histories and morphologies of five geographically representative antlion Myrmeleon hyalinus populations along a sharp climatic gradient, from a Mediterranean climate in Israel's north to a desert climate in the south. Larvae were raised in two environmental chambers simulating Mediterranean and desert climates to investigate the extent to which the different populations exhibit phenotypic plasticity. Along the north-to-south climatic gradient, we observed a gradient in body mass prior to pupation and in pupation rate. Mediterranean populations suffered higher mortality rate when exposed to desert conditions, whereas the mortality rate of desert populations was consistent between Mediterranean and desert conditions. Our results regarding body mass, pupation rate and mortality rate suggest that Mediterranean populations had a more flexible response compared with desert populations. An analysis of digital photographs was used to measure population morphological differences, which were usually indicative of a decrease in trait size along the north-to-south gradient. We show how climatic gradients translate into phenotypic differences in an antlion population and provide a morphometric tool to distinguish between instar stages.

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