, Volume 169, Issue 1, pp 125–133 | Cite as

Ecotypic differentiation between urban and rural populations of the grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus relative to climate and habitat fragmentation

  • Gilles San Martin y GomezEmail author
  • Hans Van Dyck
Population ecology - Original research paper


Urbanization alters environmental conditions in multiple ways and offers an ecological or evolutionary challenge for organisms to cope with. Urban areas typically have a warmer climate and strongly fragmented herbaceous vegetation; the urban landscape matrix is often assumed to be hostile for many organisms. Here, we addressed the issue of evolutionary differentiation between urban and rural populations of an ectotherm insect, the grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus. We compared mobility-related morphology and climate-related life history traits measured on the first generation offspring of grasshoppers from urban and rural populations reared in a common garden laboratory experiment. We predicted (1) the urban phenotype to be more mobile (i.e., lower mass allocation to the abdomen, longer relative femur and wing lengths) than the rural phenotype; (2) the urban phenotype to be more warm adapted (e.g., higher female body mass); and (3) further evidence of local adaptation in the form of significant interaction effects between landscape of origin and breeding temperature. Both males and females of urban origin had significantly longer relative femur and wing lengths and lower mass allocation to the abdomen (i.e., higher investment in thorax and flight muscles) relative to individuals of rural origin. The results were overall significant but small (2–4%). Body mass and larval growth rate were much higher (+10%) in females of urban origin. For the life history traits, we did not find evidence for significant interaction effects between the landscape of origin and the two breeding temperatures. Our results point to ecotypic differentiation with urbanization for mobility-related morphology and climate-related life history traits. We argue that the warmer urban environment has an indirect effect through longer growth season rather than direct effects on the development.


Anthropogenic landscapes Contemporary evolution Dispersal Thermoregulation 



Thanks are due to Dido Gosse, Hubert Baltus and Melanie Gibbs for assistance with breeding grasshoppers. We also thank two anonymous referees for their valuable comments. GSM was supported by a PhD grant of the FRIA fund (Fonds pour la Formation à la Recherche dans l’Industrie et dans l’Agriculture; FRS-FNRS, Belgium). This is publication BRC235 of the Biodiversity Research Center (UCL).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Behavioural Ecology and Conservation Group, Biodiversity Research Centre, Earth and Life InstituteUniversité catholique de Louvain (UCL)Louvain-la-NeuveBelgium

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