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Integr Comp Biol. 2004 Dec;44(6):413-24. doi: 10.1093/icb/44.6.413.

Bergmann and converse bergmann latitudinal clines in arthropods: two ends of a continuum?

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Zoologisches Museum, Universität Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse, 190, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland.


Two seemingly opposite evolutionary patterns of clinal variation in body size and associated life history traits exist in nature. According to Bergmann's rule, body size increases with latitude, a temperature effect. According to the converse Bergmann rule, body size decreases with latitude, a season length effect. A third pattern causally related to the latter is countergradient variation, whereby populations of a given species compensate seasonal limitations at higher latitudes by evolving faster growth and larger body sizes compared to their low latitude conspecifics. We discuss these patterns and argue that they are not mutually exclusive because they are driven by different environmental causes and proximate mechanisms; they therefore can act in conjunction, resulting in any intermediate pattern. Alternatively, Bergmann and converse Bergmann clines can be interpreted as over- and undercompensating countergradient variation, respectively. We illustrate this with data for the wide-spread yellow dung fly, Scathophaga stercoraria (Diptera: Scathophagidae), which in Europe shows a Bergmann cline for size and a converse Bergmann cline (i.e., countergradient variation) for development time. A literature review of the available evidence on arthropod latitudinal clines further shows a patterned continuum of responses. Converse Bergmann clines due to end-of-season time limitations are more common in larger species with longer development times. Our study thus provides a synthesis to the controversy about the importance of Bergmann's rule and the converse Bergmann rule in nature.

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