Broad-scale geographic patterns in body size and hind wing development of western Palaearctic carabid beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae)

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Research into large-scale ecological rules has a long tradition but has received increasing attention over the last two decades. Whereas environmental, especially climatic, influences on the geographic distribution of species traits such as body size are well understood in mammals and birds, our knowledge of the determinants and mechanisms which shape spatial patterns in invertebrate traits is still limited. This study analyzes macroecological patterns in two traits of the highly diverse invertebrate taxon of carabid beetles: body size and hind wing development, the latter being directly linked to species’ dispersal abilities. We tested for potential impacts of environmental variables (spatial, areal, topographic and climate-related) representing both contemporary conditions and historical processes on large-scale patterns in the two traits. Regression models revealed hump-shaped relationships with latitude for both traits in the categories 1) all species, 2) widespread and 3) endemic (restricted-range) species: body size and the proportion of flightless species increased from northern towards southern Europe and then decreased towards North Africa. The shared and independent influence of environmental factors was analyzed by variation partitioning. While contemporary environmental productivity and stability (represented by measures of ambient energy and water energy balance) had strong positive relationships with carabid body size, patterns in hind wing development were most notably influenced by topography (elevation range). Regions with high elevation range and low historical climate variability (since the last ice age), which likely offer long-term stable habitats (i.e. glacial refugia), coincide with regions with high proportions of flightless species. Thus geographic patterns in carabid traits tend to be formed not only by recent climate but also by dispersal and historical climate and processes (i.e. glaciations and postglacial colonization).
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)166-177
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 02.2013