How climate affects biotic interactions is a question of urgent concern1,2,3. Theory predicts that biotic interactions are stronger at lower latitudes4,5,6. However, the role of climate in governing these patterns is typically assumed, rather than explicitly tested. Here, we dissected the influence of climatic descriptors on predation pressure using data from a global experiment with model caterpillars. We then used projections of future climate change to predict shifts in predation pressure. Climate, particularly components of temperature, explained latitudinal and elevational patterns of predation better than latitude or elevation by themselves. Projected predation pressure was greater under higher temperatures and more stable climates. Increased climatic instability projected for the near future predicts a general decrease in predation pressure over time. By identifying the current climatic drivers of global patterns in a key biotic interaction, we show how shifts in these drivers could alter the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems and their associated services.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are publicly available in the Dryad Digital Repository at https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.j432q.

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We are most grateful to all authors of Roslin et al.14; without their contributions, this study would not have been possible. G.Q.R. was supported by BPE-FAPESP (grant no. 2016/01209-9) and CNPq-Brazil research grants. T.S.-S. was supported by a CNPq fellowship (grant no. 151003/2018-1). We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Academy of Finland (grant nos 138346, 276909, 285803 to T.R.). This work was performed during GQR’s sabbatical stay at Queen Mary University of London. This paper is a contribution of the Brazilian Network on Global Climate Change Research funded by CNPq (grant no. 550022/2014-7) and FINEP (grant no. 01.13.0353.00).

Author information


  1. Laboratory of Multitrophic Interactions and Biodiversity, Department of Animal Biology, Institute of Biology, State University of Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil

    • Gustavo Q. Romero
  2. Laboratory of Ecological Synthesis and Biodiversity Conservation, Department of Biology, Federal Rural University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil

    • Thiago Gonçalves-Souza
  3. School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK

    • Pavel Kratina
  4. Laboratório de Limnologia, Departamento de Ecologia, Instituto de Biologia, Centro de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    • Nicholas A. C. Marino
  5. Institute of Integrative Biology, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland

    • William K. Petry
  6. Spatial Ecology and Conservation Lab, Department of Ecology, Bioscience Institute, Universidade Estadual Paulista, São Paulo, Brazil

    • Thadeu Sobral-Souza
  7. Spatial Foodweb Ecology Group, Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

    • Tomas Roslin
  8. Spatial Foodweb Ecology Group, Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

    • Tomas Roslin


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G.Q.R. conceived the idea, developed it with all co-authors, and drafted the manuscript with inputs from all co-authors. G.Q.R., T.G.-S. and N.A.C.M. performed the statistical analyses. T.S.-S. performed the niche modelling with inputs from T.G.-S. and G.Q.R. T.G.-S. and T.S.-S. drafted the figures. All authors contributed substantially to revisions and the final format of the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gustavo Q. Romero.

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