Intraspecific body size frequency distributions of insects

Gouws, E. Jeanne ; Gaston, Kevin J. ; Chown, Steven L. (2011-03)

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Article

Although interspecific body size frequency distributions are well documented for many taxa, including the insects, intraspecific body size frequency distributions (IaBSFDs) are more poorly known, and their variation among mass-based and linear estimates of size has not been widely explored. Here we provide IaBSFDs for 16 species of insects based on both mass and linear estimates and large sample sizes (n≥100). In addition, we review the published IaBSFDs for insects, though doing so is complicated by their under-emphasis in the literature. The form of IaBSFDs can differ substantially between mass-based and linear measures. Nonetheless, in non-social insects they tend to be normally distributed (18 of 27 species) or in fewer instances positively skewed. Negatively skewed distributions are infrequently reported and log transformation readily removes the positive skew. Sexual size dimorphism does not generally cause bimodality in IaBSFDs. The available information on IaBSFDs in the social insects suggests that these distributions are usually positively skewed or bimodal (24 of 30 species). However, only c. 15% of ant genera are polymorphic, suggesting that normal distributions are probably more common, but less frequently investigated. Although only 57 species, representing seven of the 29 orders of insects, have been considered here, it appears that whilst IaBSFDs are usually normal, other distribution shapes can be found in several species, though most notably among the social insects. By contrast, the interspecific body size frequency distribution is typically right-skewed in insects and in most other taxa. © 2011 Gouws et al.

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