Seasonal body size reductions with warming covary with major body size gradients in arthropod species

Curtis R. Horne, Andrew G. Hirst, David Atkinson

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Major biological and biogeographical rules link body size variation with latitude or environmental temperature, and these rules are often studied in isolation. Within multivoltine species, seasonal temperature variation can cause substantial changes in adult body size, as subsequent generations experience different developmental conditions. Yet, unlike other size patterns, these common seasonal temperature–size gradients have never been collectively analysed. We undertake the largest analysis to date of seasonal temperature-size gradients in multivoltine arthropods, including 102 aquatic and terrestrial species from 71 global locations. Adult size declines in warmer seasons in 86% of the species examined. Aquatic species show approximately 2.5-fold greater reduction in size per °C of warming than terrestrial species, supporting the hypothesis that greater oxygen limitation in water than in air forces aquatic species to exhibit greater plasticity in body size with temperature. Total percentage change in size over the annual cycle appears relatively constant with annual temperature range but varies between environments, such that the overall size reduction in aquatic-developing species (approx. 31%) is almost threefold greater than in terrestrial species (approx. 11%). For the first time, we show that strong correlations exist between seasonal temperature–size gradients, laboratory responses and latitudinal–size clines, suggesting that these patterns share common drivers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20170238
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1851
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • life history
  • plasticity
  • seasonality
  • temperature
  • insects
  • Crustacea


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