Phenotypic plasticity and variation in morphological and life-history traits of antlion adults across a climatic gradient

Inon Scharf, Ido Filin, Dafna Ben-Yehoshua, Ofer Ovadia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


We report here on two complementary experiments examining the effect of climate on morphological and life-history traits of antlion adults. We first examined whether body size and wing loading of emerging adults are plastic by raising larvae, collected from five antlion populations along Israel's sharp climatic gradient, in two environmental chambers simulating temperature and humidity of desert and Mediterranean climates. The variance in adult morphology was mostly related to body size, with adults of Mediterranean populations being larger than those of desert populations. Wing-to-thorax ratio was negatively correlated with temperature, compensating for the decrease in wing-beat frequency in colder environments. Differences between climatic treatments were significant for body size but not for the wing-to-thorax ratio, suggesting that body size is more plastic than the ratio between different body components. We next investigated how the exposure of antlion pupae to different climatic conditions influences the emerging adults. Adult body mass increased with final larval body mass at a faster rate when exposed to Mediterranean rather than desert conditions. Duration of the pupa stage was positively correlated with final larval mass, but only under Mediterranean conditions. Adult survival increased with initial mass (after eclosion), but was lower under desert conditions. Similarly, adults lost mass at a faster rate when exposed to desert conditions. Notably, the exposure of the pupae to varying climatic conditions had no effect on adult morphology. Climate is a major factor affecting insect life span and body size. Since body size is strongly linked to fecundity and survival, climate thus has a twofold effect on fitness: directly, and indirectly through body size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-150
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2009


  • Body size
  • Latitudinal clines
  • Life span
  • Myrmeleontidae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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