• Acrididae;
  • grasshopper;
  • latitudinal diversity gradient;
  • spatial heterogeneity hypothesis;
  • species diversity

Abstract. The spatial heterogeneity hypothesis predicts a positive relationship between habitat complexity and species diversity: the greater the heterogeneity of a habitat, the greater the number of species in that habitat. On a regional scale, this hypothesis has been proposed to explain the increases in species diversity from the poles to the tropics: the tropics are more diverse because they contain more habitats. On the local scale, the spatial heterogeneity hypothesis suggests that the tropics are more diverse because they contain more microhabitats. The positive relationship between habitat heterogeneity and species diversity, on the local scale, is well documented. In this paper, we test whether habitat heterogeneity on the local scale can explain the latitudinal gradient of species diversity on the regional scale. We determined the latitudinal gradient of species diversity of 305 species of North American grasshoppers using published distribution maps. We compared the slope of this multihabitat (regional-scale) gradient with the slope of a within-habitat (local-scale) gradient in the prairie grasslands. Our results show no significant difference between the slopes at the two scales. We tested the generality of our results by comparing multi- and within-habitat latitudinal gradients of species diversity for ants, scorpions and mammals using data from the literature. These results are in accordance with those from grasshoppers. We can therefore reject the local-scale spatial heterogeneity hypothesis as a mechanism explaining the regional-scale latitudinal gradient of species diversity. We discuss alternative mechanisms that produce this gradient.