Body size distributions of large Costa Rican dry forest moths and the underlying relationship between plant and pollinator morphology


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Abstract

There has been much recent interest in explaining patterns of body size variation within species assemblages. One observation is that frequency distributions of species' body size commonly exhibit a right-skew, even on a logarithmic scale. Here we examine the species' body size distributions in two assemblages of large Costa Rican moths. We find that neither adult Sphingidae or Saturniidae exhibit the classic log right-skewed pattern. Furthermore, the species' body size distributions in these two groups are markedly different, which we suggest is a result of differential selective pressures related to resource and mate acquisition. For Sphingidae, we show (1) that body size is positively correlated with tongue length, and (2) that the distribution of sphingid body sizes/tongue lengths closely matches the distribution of flower corolla tube depths in sphingid-pollinated plants. Thus, morphological fitting between plants and pollinators seems to underlie the species' body size distribution of this sphingid assemblage. We discuss the significance of these results in the context of current theory on mechanisms driving species' body size distributions. Finally, we present an evolutionary hypothesis for the diversity of body sizes seen in this sphingid assemblage related to reciprocal interactions between plants and pollinators. This hypothesis can be tested within a rigorous phylogenetic framework, although a systematic phylogenetic analysis of Neotropical Sphingidae does not currently exist.

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