• Bergmann's rule;
  • body size evolution;
  • constraint envelope;
  • extinction;
  • geographical range size;
  • latitudinal trends;
  • macroecology;
  • macroevolution;
  • minimum viable populations;
  • species selection


The constraint envelope describing the relationship between geographical range size and body size has usually been explained by a minimum viable population size model, furnishing a strong argument for species selection if geographical range size turns out to be ‘heritable’. Recent papers have questioned this assumption of nonzero geographical range heritability at a phylogenetic level, meaning that the logic that constraint envelopes provide support for higher-level selection fails. However, I believe that analysis of constraint envelopes can still furnish insights for the hierarchical expansion of evolutionary theory because the fitness furnished by variation in body size, which is frequently measured as a highly ‘heritable’ trait at the species level, can be partitioned into anagenetic and cladogenetic components. The constraint envelope furnishes an explicit mechanism for large-body biased extinction rates influencing the distribution of body size. More importantly, it is possible to envisage a scenario in which anagenetic trends driving an increase in body size in higher latitudes within species (Bergmann's rule) are counteracted by available habitat area or continental edges constraining overall species distribution in these higher latitudes, increasing the probability of extinction. Under this combined model, faunas at higher latitudes and under habitat constraints may reach equilibrium points between these opposing hierarchical adaptive forces at smaller body size than faunas with less intense higher-level constraints and will tend to be more right-skewed.