Fecundity selection predicts Bergmann's rule in syngnathid fishes



    1. Genetics and Evolution, Conservation Biology Division, Northwest Fisheries Sciences Center, 2725 Montlake Blvd E, Seattle, WA 98112, USA
    2. Zoological Museum, University of Zurich, 8057, Zurich, Switzerland
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Tony Wilson, Fax: 41 44 6354780; E-mail: tony.wilson@zm.uzh.ch


The study of latitudinal increases in organismal body size (Bergmann's rule) predates even Darwin's evolutionary theory. While research has long concentrated on identifying general evolutionary explanations for this phenomenon, recent work suggests that different factors operating on local evolutionary timescales may be the cause of this widespread trend. Bergmann's rule explains body size variation in a diversity of warm-blooded organisms and there is increasing evidence that Bergmann's rule is also widespread in ectotherms. Bergmann's rule acts differentially in species of the Syngnathidae, a family of teleost fishes noted for extreme adaptations for male parental care. While variation in body size of polygamous Syngnathus pipefish is consistent with Bergmann's rule, body size is uncorrelated with latitude in monogamous Hippocampus seahorses. A study of populations of Syngnathus leptorhynchus along a natural latitudinal and thermal gradient indicates that increases in body size with latitude maintain the potential reproductive rate of males despite significant decreases in ambient temperatures. Polygyny is necessary in order to maximize male reproductive success in S. leptorhynchus, suggesting a possible a link between fecundity selection and Bergmann's rule in this species.