, Volume 95, Issue 1, pp 30–37 | Cite as

Latitudinal patterns in European ant assemblages: variation in species richness and body size

  • J. Hall Cushman
  • John H. Lawton
  • Bryan F. J. Manly
Original Papers


Using published distributions of 65 species from the British Isles and northern Europe, we show that ant assemblages change with latitude in two ways. First, as commonly found for many types of organisms, the number of ant species decreased significantly with increasing latitude. For Ireland and Great Britain, species richness also increased significantly with region area. Second, although rarely demonstrated for ectotherms, the body size of ant species, as measured by worker length, increased significantly with increasing latitude. We found that this body-size pattern existed in the subfamily Formicinae and, to a lesser extent, in the Myrmicinae, which together comprised 95% of the ant species in our study area. There was a trend for formicines to increase in size with latitude faster than myrmicines. We also show that the pattern of increasing body size was due primarily to the ranges of ant species shifting to higher latitudes as their body sizes increased, with larger formicines becoming less represented at southerly latitudes and larger myrmicines becoming more represented at northerly latitudes. We conclude by discussing five potential mechanisms for generating the observed body-size patterns: the heat-conservation hypothesis, two hypotheses concerning phylogenetic history, the migration-ability hypothesis, and the starvation-resistance hypothesis.

Key words

Ants Worker body size Species richness British Isles Northern Europe 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Hall Cushman
    • 1
  • John H. Lawton
    • 2
  • Bryan F. J. Manly
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.NERC Centre for Population BiologyImperial College at Silwood ParkAscotUK
  3. 3.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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