Interspecific variation in sexual dimorphism in brain size in Nearctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus spp.)

Iwaniuk, A.N.

Canadian Journal of Zoology 79(5): 9-65


ISSN/ISBN: 0008-4301
DOI: 10.1139/z01-037
Accession: 009888194

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A possible relationship between sexual dimorphism in brain size and mating system was investigated in five ground squirrel species: Spermophilus lateralis, S. tridecemlineatus, S. richardsonii, S. columbianus, and S. parryii. Relative brain size was measured by determining the endocranial volume of 247 ground squirrel skulls and regressing these values against two measurements of body size: mass and length. Analyses of covariation in the brain size/body size relationship within the five species revealed that sexual brain-size dimorphism occurs in three of the five species: S. lateralis, S. richardsonii, and S. tridecemlineatus. Application of a reduced major axis regression model indicated, however, that only S. lateralis and S. richardsonii exhibit significant sexual brain-size dimorphism. These findings suggest that the degree of sexual brain-size dimorphism is not directly correlated with variation in mating systems. Spatial abilities may play a role in the evolution of sexual brain-size dimorphism in ground squirrels, but the spatial requirements of mating systems appear to be insufficient. The possibility of sex differences in cognition, resource competition, and other variables as contributory factors to the evolution of sexual brain-size dimorphism is offered, but detailed knowledge of sex differences in the behaviour of ground squirrels is required to provide a definitive answer.