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Diversity, Body Mass, and Latitudinal Gradients in Primates


We examined latitudinal gradients in central value and diversity of body mass of primates to increase understanding of the Forster effect (decrease in taxonomic diversity with increasing latitude) and the Bergmann effect (increase of body mass with latitude). Data are from the literature. We used species’ median body mass of females and mid-latitude (N = 164). We account for phylogenetic effects with comparative analysis by independent contrasts and analysis at differing taxonomic levels. Globally, diversity of both taxonomy and body mass declined significantly with increasing latitude. The decrease in the range of body masses with increasing latitude was caused mainly by the absence of several small-bodied clades at higher latitudes, but also by the absence there of great apes. The disappearance of the small-bodied clades caused an increase in median body mass with latitude, i.e., primates show a significant taxon-wide Bergmann effect, including with phylogenetic correction. Within the Primates, the Bergmann effect was significant within taxa that extend from the equator the farthest into temperate regions: the Old World infraorder Catarrhini, family Cercopithecidae, and subfamily Cercopithecinae; the Asian Cercopithecidae; and in Southeast Asian Sunda, Macaca. The results accord with hypotheses for the Forster effect that latitudinal gradients in taxonomic diversity result from high rates of speciation in the tropics, and ecological, and therefore evolutionary, constraints on diversity at higher latitudes. For the Bergmann effect, the results support energetic hypotheses that the very largest-bodied and the small-bodied taxa cannot survive the long periods of limited resources at higher latitudes.

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