Water-Balance Characteristics Respond to Changes in Body Size in Subantarctic Weevils

Steven L. Chown, C. Jaco Klok

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Several environmental factors leading to size-dependent mortality influence insect body size. Few investigations have been concerned with the ways in which the mechanisms underlying variation in water-balance characteristics evolve in response to changes in body size that occur independently of water-balance requirements. Using an explicitly phylogenetic analysis, we show how body size has changed over time in the Ectemnorhinus group of weevils and how water-balance characteristics have evolved in response to this change and changes in habitat use. The basal species in the group are all large bodied and from moist environments. In response to a change in resource availability, there was a marked decline in size within the group. Despite the reduction in water content and dehydration tolerance that this meant, evolution of low whole-animal waterloss rates and high tolerance of dehydration resulted in conservation of desiccation resistance. The return to moist habitats in the group resulted in a reduction in dehydration tolerance and an increase in water-loss rate. Thus, dehydration tolerance and water-loss rate respond rapidly both when there is selection for water conservation and when this requirement is relaxed. Future laboratory selection experiments might usefully explore both directions of water-balance evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634-643
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2003
Externally publishedYes

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