Dispersal ability modulates the strength of the latitudinal richness gradient in European beetles

Aim A debate exists as to whether present-day diversity gradients are governed by current environmental conditions or by changes in environmental conditions through time. Recent studies have shown that latitudinal richness gradients might be partially caused by incomplete post-glacial recolonization of high-latitude regions; this leads to the prediction that less mobile taxa should have steeper gradients than more mobile taxa. The aim of this study is to test this prediction. Location Europe. Methods We first assessed whether spatial turnover in species composition is a good surrogate for dispersal ability by measuring the proportion of wingless species in 19 European beetle clades and relating this value to spatial turnover (▀sim) of the clade. We then linearly regressed ▀sim values of 21 taxa against the slope of their respective diversity gradients. Results A strong relationship exists between the proportion of wingless species and ▀sim, and ▀sim was found to be a good predictor of latitudinal richness gradients. Main conclusions Results are consistent with the prediction that poor dispersers have steeper richness gradients than good dispersers, supporting the view that current beetle diversity gradients in Europe are affected by post-glacial dispersal lags.