Bergmann's rule does not apply to geometrid moths along an elevational gradient in an Andean montane rain forest


Correspondence: Gunnar Brehm, Department of Animal Ecology I, University of Bayreuth, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany. E-mail:


Aim  Bergmann's rule generally predicts larger animal body sizes with colder climates. We tested whether Bergmann's rule at the interspecific level applies to moths (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) along an extended elevational gradient in the Ecuadorian Andes.

Location  Moths were sampled at 22 sites in the province Zamora-Chinchipe in southern Ecuador in forest habitats ranging from 1040 m to 2677 m above sea level.

Methods  Wingspans of 2282 male geometrid moths representing 953 species were measured and analysed at the level of the family Geometridae, as well as for the subfamily Ennominae with the tribes Boarmiini and Ourapterygini, and the subfamily Larentiinae with the genera Eois, Eupithecia and Psaliodes.

Results  Bergmann's rule was not supported since the average wingspan of geometrid moths was negatively correlated with altitude (r = −0.59, P < 0.005). The relationship between body size and altitude in Geometridae appears to be spurious because species of the subfamily Larentiinae are significantly smaller than species of the subfamily Ennominae and simultaneously increase in their proportion along the gradient. A significant decrease of wingspan was also found in the ennomine tribe Ourapterygini, but no consistent body size patterns were found in the other six taxa studied. In most taxa, body size variation increases with altitude, suggesting that factors acting to constrain body size might be weaker at high elevations.

Main conclusions  The results are in accordance with previous studies that could not detect consistent body size patterns in insects at the interspecific level along climatic gradients.