Biology Letters

    The water balance of tsetse flies (Diptera: Glossinidae) has significant implications for understanding biogeography and climate change responses in these African disease vectors. Although moisture is important for tsetse population dynamics, evolutionary responses of Glossina water balance to climate have been relatively poorly explored and earlier studies may have been confounded by several factors. Here, using a physiological and GIS climate database, we investigate potential interspecific relationships between traits of water balance and climate. We do so in conventional and phylogenetically independent approaches for both adults and pupae. Results showed that water loss rates (WLR) were significantly positively related to precipitation in pupae even after phylogenetic adjustment. Adults showed no physiology–climate correlations. Ancestral trait reconstruction suggests that a reduction in WLR and increased size probably evolved from an intermediate ancestral state and may have facilitated survival in xeric environments. The results of this study therefore suggest an important role for water balance physiology of pupae in determining interspecific variation and lend support to conclusions reached by early studies of tsetse physiology.