Geographic variation in body size and sexual size dimorphism of a seed-feeding beetle

R. Craig Stillwell, Geoffrey E. Morse, Charles W. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Body size of many animals varies with latitude: body size is either larger at higher latitudes (Bergmann's rule) or smaller at higher latitudes (converse Bergmann's rule). However, the causes underlying these patterns are poorly understood. Also, studies rarely explore how sexual size dimorphism varies with latitude. Here we investigate geographic variation in body size and sexual size dimorphism of the seed-feeding beetle Stator limbatus, collected from 95 locations along a 38° range in latitude. We examine 14 variables to test whether clines in environmental factors are adequate to explain geographic patterns of body size. We found that body size and sexual size dimorphism of S. limbatus varied considerably with latitude; beetles were smaller but more dimorphic at lower latitudes. Body size was not correlated with a gradient in mean temperature, contrary to the commonly accepted hypothesis that clines are produced by latitudinal gradients in temperature. Instead, we found that three factors were adequate to explain the cline in body size: clinal variation in host plant seed size, moisture (humidity), and seasonality (variance in humidity, precipitation, and temperature). We also found that the cline in sexual size dimorphism was partially explainable by a gradient in moisture, though moisture alone was not sufficient to explain the cline. Other ecological or environmental variables must necessarily contribute to differences in selection on male versus female body size. The main implications of our study are that the sexes differ in the magnitude of clinal variation in body size, creating latitudinal variation in sexual size dimorphism, and that clines in body size of seed beetles are likely influenced by variation in host seed size, water availability, and seasonality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-369
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • Bergmann's rule
  • Body size
  • Latitudinal clines
  • Temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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