Aim Geographic variation in body size and heterozygosity were surveyed for discrete populations of the ant lion, Myrmeleon immaculatus DeGeer, collected from the central and northeastern United States.
LocationCollection sites were located in the central and eastern United States ranging from western Oklahoma to northern New York.
Methods We collected 872 M. immaculatus larvae from thirty-four collecting sites. At each site, we randomly sampled ant lion pits and collected between fifteen and fifty-two larvae in total. Larvae were preserved in 95% ETOH for morphological analysis and frozen in a −80°C freezer for protein electrophoresis. We measured the body size of eighty-five preserved adult M. immaculatus obtained from museum collections using head width as an indicator of body size. Five enzymes [GPI (glucose phosphate isomerase), MDH (malate dehydrogenase), PEP (peptidase), DIA (diaphorase) and SOD (superoxide dismutase)] were used in the heterozygosity analyses.
Results Larval and adult body size increased with latitude, but decreased with elevation. Average heterozygosity, measured at five polymorphic loci, also increased significantly with latitude. Minimum temperature variance was the best predictor of body size, whereas precipitation and maximum temperature were the best predictors of heterozygosity. Populations were genetically differentiated from one another and showed a pattern of isolation by distance, as measured by Wright's Fst values and Nei's genetic distances.
Main conclusions Sampling artifacts, heat conservation, character displacement, cell-size variation, density-dependent mortality, and differential dispersal probably cannot account for latitudinal variation in ant lion body size. Our results implicate the importance of diurnal photoperiod, which varies with latitude, but not with elevation. Because photoperiod often controls growth, diapause, and metamorphosis, it may be an important determinant of latitudinal clines in body size and life history of insects.