Latitudinal Gradients in Body Size in Marine Tardigrades

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Homeotherms and many poikilotherms display a positive relationship between body size and latitude, but this has rarely been investigated in microscopic animals. We analysed all published records of marine Tardigrada to address whether microscopic marine invertebrates have similar ecogeographical patterns to macroscopic animals. The data were analysed using spatially explicit generalized least squares models and linear models. We looked for latitudinal patterns in body size and species richness, testing for sampling bias and phylogenetic constraints. No latitudinal pattern was detected for species richness, and sampling bias was the strongest correlate of species richness. A hump-shaped increase in median body size with latitude was found, and the effect remained significant for the Northern Hemisphere but not for the Southern. The most significant effect supporting the latitudinal gradient was on minimum body size, with smaller species disappearing at higher latitudes. Our results suggest that biogeographical signals were observed for body size, albeit difficult to detect in poorly studied groups because of swamping from biased sampling effort and from low sample size. We did not find a significant correlation with the latitudinal pattern of body size and ecologically relevant net primary productivity.