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Ecology. 2014 Aug;95(8):2134-43.

The impact of seasonality in temperature on thermal tolerance and elevational range size.


Environmental temperature variation can influence physiology, biogeography, and life history, with large consequences for ecology, evolution, and the impacts of climate change. Based on the seasonality hypothesis, greater annual temperature variation at high latitudes should result in greater thermal tolerance and, consequently, larger elevational ranges in temperate compared to tropical species. Despite the mechanistic nature of this hypothesis, most research has used latitude as a proxy for seasonality, failing to directly examine the impact of temperature variation on physiology and range size. We used phylogenetically matched beetles from locations spanning 60 degrees of latitude to explore links between seasonality, physiology and elevational range. Thermal tolerance increased with seasonality across all beetle groups, but realized seasonality (temperature variation restricted to the months species are active) was a better predictor of thermal tolerance than was annual seasonality. Additionally, beetles with greater thermal tolerance had larger elevational ranges. Our results support a mechanistic framework linking variation in realized temperature to physiology and distributions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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