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New clues found linking larger animals to colder climates
Date:2/24/2010

HOUSTON, Feb. 24, 2010 Thanks to a pair of University of Houston researchers who found a possible new solution to a 163-year-old puzzle, ecological factors can now be added to physiology to explain why animals grow bigger in the cold.

Their results were published in the February issue of the American Naturalist, offering new insight to Bergmann's rule that animals grow larger at high, cold latitudes than their counterparts closer to the equator. While traditional explanations have been based on body temperature being the driving force of this phenomenon, this group of community ecologists hypothesize that better food makes high-latitude animals bigger.

Chuan-Kai Ho, a Ph.D. graduate from UH in ecology and evolution, his adviser and UH professor of biology and biochemistry Steven Pennings, and their collaborator Thomas Carefoot from the University of British Columbia opened up a new line of study into Bergmann's rule. The research program in Pennings' lab over the last decade has offered the most extensive work done on the general problem of latitudinal variation in plant-herbivore interactions. This latest finding from Pennings' groundbreaking research at UH on this subject came from one of Ho's doctoral dissertation chapters.

"Because the American Naturalist is one of the top journals in our field, publishing at this level is a mark of great success for a Ph.D. student," Pennings said. "It's also a reflection of the strength of our graduate program in the ecology and evolution division of UH's department of biology and biochemistry."

Ho, now a postdoctoral student at Texas A&M at Galveston's Armitage & Quigg Laboratory, also has another chapter from his UH dissertation on salt marsh food webs published in Ecology, another top journal in the field. Pennings received a doctoral dissertation improvement grant for Ho in 2007-2008 from the National Science Foundation that provided funding for Ho to
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Contact: Lisa Merkl
lkmerkl@uh.edu
713-743-8192
University of Houston
Source:Eurekalert  

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