Life history traits, but not body size, vary systematically along latitudinal gradients on three continents in the widespread yellow dung fly

5 April 2018

Blanckenhorn, Wolf; Bauerfeind, Stephanie; Berger, David; Davidowitz, Goggy; Fox, Charles; Guillaume, Frederic; Nakamura, Satoshi; Nishimura, Kinya; Sasaki, Hitoshi; Stillwell, Roger; Tachi, Takuji; Schäfer, Martin

Large-scale clinal variation in body size and other life-history traits is common enough to have stimulated the postulation of several eco-geographical rules. Whereas some clinal patterns are clearly adaptive, the causes of others remain unclear. We present a comprehensive intraspecific population comparison for the cosmopolitan yellow dung fly (Scathophaga stercoraria; Diptera: Scathophagidae) to check for consistent world-wide patterns. Common garden assessment of various life history traits permitted continental comparison of (clinal) quantitative genetic differentiation (Qst) with putatively neutral genetic differentiation (Fst) derived from field-caught flies. Latitudinal clines in fly development time, growth rate, and overwintering propensity were consistent among North American, European and Japanese populations. Increased winter dormancy incidence and duration at higher latitude, combined with a faster growth rate and shorter development time, suggest that flies are adaptated to season length more than to temperature. The resulting body size clines, in contrast, were not very consistent; importantly, they were not negative, as expected under seasonal constraints, but flat or even positive clines. Quantitative genetic differentiation QST exceeded neutral molecular variation FST for most traits, suggesting that natural selection plays a consistent role in mediating global dung fly life histories. We conclude that faster growth and development in response to shorter growing seasons at higher latitudes indirectly counteract expected direct effects of temperature on body-size, resulting in flat or inconsistent body size clines in nature.