Effects of elevational range shift on the morphology and physiology of a carabid beetle invading the sub-Antarctic Kerguelen islands.
Climatic changes can induce geographic expansion and altitudinal shifts in the distribution of invasive species by offering more thermally suitable habitats. At the remote sub-Antarctic Kerguelen Islands, the predatory insect Merizodus soledadinus (Coleoptera: Carabidae), introduced in 1913, rapidly invaded coastal habitats. More recent colonisation of higher elevation habitats by this species could be underlain by their increased thermal suitability as the area has warmed. This study compared the effect of elevational range shift on the morphology and physiology of adult M. soledadinus sampled along two altitudinal transects (from the foreshore to 250 m a.s.l.) and a horizontal lowland transect orthogonal to the seashore (400 m length). Although high inter-individual and inter-transect variations in the traits examined were present, we observed that body mass of males and females tended to decrease with elevation, and that triglyceride contents decreased with distance from the shore. Moreover, protein contents of females as well as those of 26 metabolites were influenced significantly by distance to the foreshore. These results suggest that future climate change at the Kerguelen Islands will further assist the colonisation of lowland inland and higher altitude habitats by this aggressively invasive predator, by making previously sub-optimal habitats progressively more suitable.