Body size and the behavioral ecology of insects: Linking individuals to ecological communities

Gregor Kalinkat, Malte Jochum, Ulrich Brose, Anthony I. Dell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The role of body size as a key feature determining the biology and ecology of individual animals, and thus the structure and dynamics of populations, communities, and ecosystems, has long been acknowledged. Body size provides a functional link between individual-level processes such as physiology and behavior, with higher-level ecological processes such as the strength and outcome of trophic interactions, which regulate the flow of energy and nutrients within and across ecosystems. Early ecological work on size in animals focused on vertebrates, and especially mammals. More recent focus on invertebrates, and insects in particular, that spans levels of organization from individual physiology to communities, has greatly expanded and improved our understanding of the role of body size in ecology. Progress has come from theoretical advances, from the production of new, high-resolution empirical data sets, and from enhanced computation and analytical techniques. Recent findings suggest that many of the allometric concepts and principles developed over the last century also apply to insects. But these recent studies also emphasize that while body size plays a crucial role in insect ecology, it is not the entire story, and a fuller understanding must come from an approach that integrates both size and non-size effects. In this review we discuss the core principles of a size-based (allometric) approach in insect ecology, together with the potential of such an approach to connect biological processes and mechanisms across levels of organization from individuals to ecosystems. We identify knowledge gaps, particularly related to size constraints on insect movement and behavior, which can impact the strength and outcome of species interactions (and especially trophic interactions) and thus link individual organisms to communities and ecosystems. Addressing these gaps should facilitate a fuller understanding of insect ecology, with important basic and applied benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-30
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Insect Science
StatePublished - Jun 18 2015


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