Temperature (latitude) and nutrient (seabird guano) effects on limno-terrestrial Tardigrada (Testechiniscus spitsbergensis and Pilatobius recamieri) body size
Surveys of terrestrial microinvertebrate morphometry, especially spatial patterns of body size at wider geographical scales, including the polar regions, are very scarce. In this study, we focused on Tardigrada, common limno-terrestrial microinvertebrates. Considering Bergmann’s rule, originally formulated for endothermic animals, we tested the hypothesis that body length of limno-terrestrial tardigrades augments with increasing latitude and decreasing temperature. Since some of our sampling areas adjoined seabird colonies, we also explored the effects of nutrients from seabird guano deposits. Individual body length of Testechiniscus spitsbergensis was measured in populations obtained from seven localities distributed along a latitudinal gradient extending from 45°N (northern Italy) to 79°N (northern Svalbard), and for Pilatobius recamieri from three localities in Svalbard (77°N-80°N). Considering both latitude and proximity to a seabird colony there were significant effects of locality on the body length of T. spitsbergensis; however, no clear pattern of increasing individual body size with increasing latitude could be detected. Immense differences in body size may be a signal for cryptic species diversity within this genus. No effect of latitude, or proximity to a seabird colony, on the body length of Arctic populations of P. recamieri was documented. Evidently, there is no tendency towards body size increase along the latitudinal gradient in either T. spitsbergensis or P. recamieri. Our study, and recent literature, indicates that larger body size in polar regions reported for several groups of micro-fauna may be a taxon-dependent response, and cannot be taken as a universally applicable rule for limnoterrestrial animals.
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