Urbanization disrupts latitude-size rule in 17-year cicadas

De Anna E. Beasley, Clint Penick, Nana S. Boateng, Holly L. Menninger, Robert R. Dunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Many ectotherms show a decrease in body size with increasing latitude due to changes in climate, a pattern termed converse Bergmann's rule. Urban conditions—particularly warmer temperatures and fragmented landscapes—may impose stresses on development that could disrupt these body size patterns. To test the impact of urbanization on development and latitudinal trends in body size, we launched a citizen science project to collect periodical cicadas (Magicicada septendecim) from across their latitudinal range during the 2013 emergence of Brood II. Periodical cicadas are long-lived insects whose distribution spans a broad latitudinal range covering both urban and rural habitats. We used a geometric morphometric approach to assess body size and developmental stress based on fluctuating asymmetry in wing shape. Body size of rural cicadas followed converse Bergmann's rule, but this pattern was disrupted in urban habitats. In the north, urban cicadas were larger than their rural counterparts, while southern populations showed little variation in body size between habitats. We detected no evidence of differences in developmental stress due to urbanization. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence that urbanization disrupts biogeographical trends in body size, and this pattern highlights how the effects of urbanization may differ over a species’ range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2534-2541
Number of pages8
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • Bergmann's rule
  • citizen science
  • fluctuating asymmetry
  • geometric morphometrics
  • periodical cicada
  • urban ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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