Mechanistic understanding of how temperature and its variability shape body size composition in moth assemblages

Stephanie Chia, Shipher Wu, Ya Jung Lu, Yi Shin Jang, Chien Chen Huang, Sheng Feng Shen, I. Ching Chen, Mao Ning Tuanmu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding how climate affects trait composition within a biological assemblage is critical for assessing and eventually mitigating climate change impacts on the assemblage and its ecological functioning. While body size is a fundamental trait of animals as it affects many aspects of species' biology and ecology, it remains unclear through what mechanisms temperature and its variability influence within-assemblage body size variation. This study aims to understand how temperature and its variability shape body size variations in animal assemblages and potentially affect assemblages' vulnerability to climate change. Using >5300 individuals of 680 macromoth species collected from 13 assemblages along a ca. 3000 m elevational gradient in Taiwan, we examined (1) the strength of environmental filtering and niche partitioning in determining the intra- and inter-specific size variations within an assemblage, and (2) the effects of mean temperature and the daily and seasonal temperature variabilities on the strength of the two processes. We found that the body size composition was strongly affected by temperature and its seasonality via both processes. High temperature seasonality enhanced niche partitioning, causing within-population size convergence. In contrast, low mean temperature and low seasonality both enhanced environmental filtering, causing within-assemblage size convergence. However, while low temperature restricted the lower size limit within an assemblage, low seasonality restricted both lower and upper size limits. This study indicates an overlooked but important role of temperature seasonality in shaping intra- and inter-specific size variations in moth assemblages through both environmental filtering and niche partitioning. With rising temperatures and amplifying seasonality around the globe, potentially weakened filtering forces may increase the size variation within assemblages, reinforcing the assemblage-level resilience. Nevertheless, enhanced niche partitioning may limit size variation within populations, which may increase the population-level vulnerability to environmental changes. This study improves the mechanistic understanding of the climatic effects on trait composition in animal assemblages and provides essential information for biodiversity conservation under climate change. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-218
Number of pages13
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Jan

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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