Life history traits associated with body size covary along a latitudinal gradient in a generalist grasshopper

TitleLife history traits associated with body size covary along a latitudinal gradient in a generalist grasshopper
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsParsons, S, Joern, A
Pagination379 -391
Accession NumberKNZ001617
Keywordsacrididae, Development time, Growth rate, Latitudinal compensation hypothesis, Melanoplus femurrubrum

Animal body size often varies systematically along latitudinal gradients, where individuals are either larger or smaller with varying season length. This study examines ecotypic responses by the generalist grasshopper Melanoplus femurrubrum (Orthoptera: Acrididae) in body size and covarying, physiologically based life history traits along a latitudinal gradient with respect to seasonality and energetics. The latitudinal compensation hypothesis predicts that smaller body size occurs in colder sites when populations must compensate for time constraints due to short seasons. Shorter season length requires faster developmental and growth rates to complete life cycles in one season. Using a common garden experimental design under laboratory conditions, we examined how grasshopper body size, consumption, developmental time, growth rate and metabolism varied among populations collected along an extended latitudinal gradient. When reared at the same temperature in the lab, individuals from northern populations were smaller, developed more rapidly, and showed higher growth rates, as expected for adaptations to shorter and generally cooler growing seasons. Temperature-dependent, whole organism metabolic rate scaled positively with body size and was lower at northern sites, but mass-specific standard metabolic rate did not differ among sites. Total food consumption varied positively with body size, but northern populations exhibited a higher mass-specific consumption rate. Overall, compensatory life history responses corresponded with key predictions of the latitudinal compensation hypothesis in response to season length.