Relation of geographic variation in the skull of microtus pennsylvanicus to climate

Snell, R.R.; Cunnison, K.M.

Canadian Journal of Zoology 61(6): 1232-1241


ISSN/ISBN: 0008-4301
DOI: 10.1139/z83-167
Accession: 006294589

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Analyses of geographic variation in the skull of meadow voles (M. pennsylvanicus) indicate that phenetic distances among samples are not related to geographic distance: a minimum spanning tree based on average taxonomic distance superimposed on a map of 38 localities provides no particular phenetic clustering of those samples geographically proximate. A multiple regression of phenetic component 1 (skull size) onto orthogonally rotated climatic factors explains much less morphometric variation (25.6%) than a simple correlation with recorded extreme low temperature (38.9%). Multiple regression of phenetic principal component 2 (interorbital width) onto the same climatic factors explains minimally more morphological variation (42.1%) than a simple correlation with mean annual number of days with frost (41.7%). M. pennsylvanicus shows a pattern of size variation that is the reverse of Bergmann's rule: these voles are large where it is warm and small where it is cold. Since small size reduces total energy expenditure, during times of extreme low temperature (i) smaller voles will be less energetically stressed than larger voles and (ii) large size will be actively selected against.