Comparing life histories across taxonomic groups in multiple dimensions: how mammal-like are insects?

Bakewell, Adam T.; Davis, Katie E.; Freckleton, Robert P.; Isaac, Nick J.B. ORCID:; Mayhew, Peter J.. 2020 Comparing life histories across taxonomic groups in multiple dimensions: how mammal-like are insects? American Naturalist, 195 (1).

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
N525026JA.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Download (1MB) | Preview


Explaining variation in life histories remains a major challenge because they are multidimensional and there are many competing explanatory theories and paradigms. An influential concept in life-history theory is the fast-slow continuum, exemplified by mammals. Determining the utility of such concepts across taxonomic groups requires comparison of the groups’ life histories in multidimensional space. Insects display enormous species richness and phenotypic diversity, but testing hypotheses like the fast-slow continuum has been inhibited by incomplete trait data. We use phylogenetic imputation to generate complete data sets of seven life-history traits in orthopterans (grasshoppers and crickets) and examine the robustness of these imputations for our findings. Three phylogenetic principal components explain 83%–96% of variation in these data. We find consistent evidence of an axis mostly following expectations of a fast-slow continuum, except that “slow” species produce larger, not smaller, clutches of eggs. We show that the principal axes of variation in orthopterans and reptiles are mutually explanatory, as are those of mammals and birds. Essentially, trait covariation in Orthoptera, with “slow” species producing larger clutches, is more reptilelike than mammal-like or birdlike. We conclude that the fast-slow continuum is less pronounced in Orthoptera than it is in birds and mammals, reducing the universal relevance of this pattern and the theories that predict it.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0003-0147
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: Orthoptera, fast-slow continuum, life history, phylogenetic comparative methods
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 11 Sep 2019 13:54 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...