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

run chemical analyses on leaves from different latitudes to assess their nutritional content.

Studying three different plant-eating species grasshoppers, planthoppers and sea snails collected from along the Atlantic coast to Japan, respectively, the researchers fed these herbivores plants from both high and low latitudes and found that they all grew better when fed plants from the higher latitudes. This indicates that Bergmann's rule could reflect that plants from high latitudes provide better food than those from low latitudes. These latest findings, according to Ho, indicate that studies of Bergmann's rule should consider ecological interactions in addition to the more traditional theories of physiology based on responses to temperature.

Over the years, work in Pennings' lab has shown that, although low-latitude plants are less nutritious and better protected by chemical defenses, they experience heavy damage from herbivores, which are more abundant at low latitudes. Future study, Pennings adds, should focus on why there are more herbivores at lower latitudes despite the lower-quality food sources. A likely explanation is that herbivore populations are limited at high latitudes by a short growing season and high death rates during cold winters.

"While the explanations discovered in our current study only apply to herbivores, it may be that carnivores and omnivores also might grow larger as a consequence of eating larger herbivores," Ho said. "Examining such patterns and underlying mechanisms in nature will help us understand what currently is going on and what might happen down the line to our ecosystems."


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Contact: Lisa Merkl
lkmerkl@uh.edu
713-743-8192
University of Houston
Source:Eurekalert  

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