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Geographic body size gradients in tropical regions: water deficit and anuran body size in the Brazilian Cerrado


  • Miguel Á. Olalla-Tárraga,

  • José Alexandre F. Diniz-Filho,

  • Rogério P. Bastos,

  • Miguel Á. Rodríguez

M. Á. Olalla-Tárraga ( and M. Á. Rodríguez, Dept of Ecology, Univ. of Alcalá de Henares, RS-28871, Spain. – J. A. F. Diniz-Filho and R. P. Bastos, Depto de Biologia Geral, ICB, Univ. Federal de Goiás, CP 131, 74.001-970, Goiânia, GO, Brazil.


A recent interspecific study found Bergmann's size clines for Holarctic anurans and proposed an explanation based on heat balance to account for the pattern. However, this analysis was limited to cold temperate regions, and exploring the patterns in warmer tropical climates may reveal other factors that also influence anuran body size variation. We address this using a Cerrado anuran database. We examine the relationship between mean body size in a grid of 1° cells and environmental predictors and test the relative support for four hypotheses using an AIC-based model selection approach. Also, we considered three different amphibian phylogenies to partition the phylogenetic and specific components of the interspecific variation in body size using a method analogous to phylogenetic eigen vector regression (PVR). To consider the potential effects of spatial autocorrelation we use eigenvector-based spatial filters. We found the largest species inhabiting high water deficit areas in the northeast and the smallest in the wet southwest. Our results are consistent with the water availability hypothesis which, coupled with previous findings, suggests that the major determinant of interspecific body size variation in anurans switches from energy to water towards the equator. We propose that anuran body size gradients reflect effects of reduced surface to volume ratios in larger species to control both heat and water balance.

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