Thermal adaptation and diversity in tropical ecosystems: evidence from cicadas (Hemiptera, Cicadidae)

PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e29368. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029368. Epub 2011 Dec 29.


The latitudinal gradient in species diversity is a central problem in ecology. Expeditions covering approximately 16°54' of longitude and 21°4' of latitude and eight Argentine phytogeographic regions provided thermal adaptation data for 64 species of cicadas. We test whether species diversity relates to the diversity of thermal environments within a habitat. There are general patterns of the thermal response values decreasing in cooler floristic provinces and decreasing maximum potential temperature within a habitat except in tropical forest ecosystems. Vertical stratification of the plant communities leads to stratification in species using specific layers of the habitat. There is a decrease in thermal tolerances in species from the understory communities in comparison to middle level or canopy fauna. The understory Herrera umbraphila Sanborn & Heath is the first diurnally active cicada identified as a thermoconforming species. The body temperature for activity in H. umbraphila is less than and significantly different from active body temperatures of all other studied species regardless of habitat affiliation. These data suggest that variability in thermal niches within the heterogeneous plant community of the tropical forest environments permits species diversification as species adapt their physiology to function more efficiently at temperatures different from their potential competitors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Argentina
  • Biodiversity*
  • Body Temperature / physiology*
  • Geography
  • Hemiptera / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Trees / physiology
  • Tropical Climate*