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Environmental correlates of body size distributions of European springtails (Hexapoda: Collembola)


Werner Ulrich, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Department of Animal Ecology, Gagarina 9, 87-100 Toruń, Poland.


Aim  Species–body size distributions (SBDs) are plots of species richness across body size classes. They have been linked to energetic constraints, speciation–extinction dynamics and to evolutionary trends. However, little is known about the spatial variation of size distributions. Here we study SBDs of European springtails (Collembola) at a continental scale and test whether minimum, average and maximum body size and the shapes of size distributions change across latitudinal and longitudinal gradients and whether SBDs of islands and mainlands differ. We also test whether the island rule and the positive body size–range size relationship of vertebrates also holds for Collembola.

Location  Europe.

Methods  We use a unique data set on the spatial distributions of 2102 species of European springtails across 52 countries and larger islands together with associated data on body size, area, climate variables, longitude and latitude. Differences in the central moments of SBDs are inferred from simultaneous spatial autoregression models.

Results  The SBD of the European Collembola and its largest suborder Entomobryomorpha is unimodal and symmetrical. Average, minimum and maximum body weight and the skewness of the mainland/island SBDs peaked at intermediate latitudes. We could not find simple latitudinal gradients in minimum and maximum body weight. Average and maximum body size increased with country/island area in accordance with the island rule in vertebrates, while minimum body size did not significantly differ between islands and mainlands. Finally, we found a weak but statistically significant positive correlation of range size and body size.

Main conclusions  We provide evidence for differences in body size distributions between islands and mainlands that are in part in line with the island rule in invertebrates. We also find evidence for an interspecific body size–range size relationship similar to that of vertebrates although the vertebrate pattern is much stronger than the springtail pattern. Our results on latitudinal gradients of maximum and average body size imply the need to account for species richness and area effects in the study of latitudinal gradients in body size. We recommend implementing sample size and area effects in the study of body size distributions on islands and mainlands.