Interrelations of global macroecological patterns in wing and thorax size, sexual size dimorphism, and range size of the Drosophilidae

Published online: 
23 February 2018

Rohner Patrick T., Pitnick Scott, Blanckenhorn Wolf U., Snook Rhonda R., Bächli Gerhard, Lüpold Stefan

Support for macroecological rules in insects is mixed, with potential confounding interrelations between patterns rarely studied. We here investigate global patterns in body and wing size, sexual size dimorphism and range size in common fruit flies (Diptera: Drosophilidae) and explore potential interrelations and the predictive power of Allen's, Bergmann's, Rensch's and Rapoport's rules. We found that thorax length (r2 = 0.05) and wing size (r2 = 0.09) increased with latitude, supporting Bergmann's rule. Contrary to patterns often found in endothermic vertebrates, relative wing size increased towards the poles (r2 = 0.12), a pattern against Allen's rule, which we attribute to selection for increased flight capacity in the cold. Sexual size dimorphism decreased with size, evincing Rensch's rule across the family (r2 = 0.14). Yet, this pattern was largely driven by the virilis–repleta radiation. Finally, range size did not correlate with latitude, although a positive relationship was present in a subset of the species investigated, providing no convincing evidence for Rapoport's rule. We further found little support for confounding interrelations between body size, wing loading and range size in this taxon. Nevertheless, we demonstrate that studying several traits simultaneously at minimum permits better interpretation in case of multiple, potentially conflicting trends or hypotheses concerning the macroecology of insects.