Adaptive latitudinal trends in the mandible shape of Apodemus wood mice
Size and shape of the mandible are investigated across the latitudinal range of the European wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), in order to address the relative importance of genetic structure, insularity, and geographical gradient in patterning morphological variation. Results are compared with those on two Asiatic species of wood mice, A. argenteus and A. speciosus. Location
The European wood mouse is sampled by a set of trapping localities including both, islands and mainland populations, as well as the four genetic groups identified in previous studies. The localities cover a latitudinal gradient from 55° N to 36° N. Methods
Different Fourier methods are applied to the outlines of mandibles and their results compared in the case of A. sylvaticus. All provide similar results and allow a quantification of the size and shape variations across the geographical range of the European wood mouse. Using the method allowing for the best reduction of the informative data set, a comparison of the European wood mouse with the two Asiatic species was performed. Results
Within the European wood mouse A. sylvaticus, a strong latitudinal gradient in mandible shape overrides the influence of insularity and genetic structure. Yet, random morphological divergence in insular conditions can be identified as a secondary process of shape differentiation. Size displays no obvious pattern of variation, neither with insularity or latitude. A comparison with two other species of wood mice suggests that a similar latitudinal gradient in mandible shape exists in different species, mandibles being flatter in the north and wider in the south. Main conclusion
The latitudinal gradient in mandible shape observed in the three species of wood mice is interpreted as an intraspecific adaptive response to gradual changes in feeding behaviour.