, Volume 139, Issue 3, pp 408–417 | Cite as

Latitudinal variation in the shape of the species body size distribution: an analysis using freshwater fishes

Community Ecology


Many taxonomic and ecological assemblages of species exhibit a right-skewed body size-frequency distribution when characterized at a regional scale. Although this distribution has been frequently described, factors influencing geographic variation in the distribution are not well understood, nor are mechanisms responsible for distribution shape. In this study, variation in the species body size-frequency distributions of 344 regional communities of North American freshwater fishes is examined in relation to latitude, species richness, and taxonomic composition. Although the distribution of all species of North American fishes is right-skewed, a negative correlation exists between latitude and regional community size distribution skewness, with size distributions becoming left-skewed at high latitudes. This relationship is not an artifact of the confounding relationship between latitude and species richness in North American fishes. The negative correlation between latitude and regional community size distribution skewness is partially due to the geographic distribution of families of fishes and apparently enhanced by a nonrandom geographic distribution of species within families. These results are discussed in the context of previous explanations of factors responsible for the generation of species size-frequency distributions related to the fractal nature of the environment, energetics, and evolutionary patterns of body size in North American fishes.


Latitudinal variation North America Bergmann’s rule Skewness 



I thank L. Harmon and J. Losos for helpful comments on a draft of this manuscript. This research was supported by the Illinois Natural History Survey and the National Science Foundation (DBI-204144).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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