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Polar gigantism dictated by oxygen availability


The tendency of some animals to be larger at higher latitudes (‘polar gigantism’) has not been explained, although it has often been attributed to low temperature and metabolism1. Investigation of gigantism requires widely distributed taxa with extensive species representation at many well-studied sites. We have analysed length data for 1,853 species of benthic amphipod crustaceans from 12 sites worldwide, from polar to tropical and marine (continental shelf) to freshwater environments. We find that maximum potential size (MPS) is limited by oxygen availability.

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Figure 1: Amphipod size spectra for the two sites (Madagascar8, top; Lake Baikal9, bottom) for which the maximum and minimum TS95/5values, indicated by bars, were obtained.
Figure 2: Effects of temperature and oxygen availability on amphipod MPS.


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Chapelle, G., Peck, L. Polar gigantism dictated by oxygen availability. Nature 399, 114–115 (1999).

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