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Mandibles and molars of the wood mouse, Apodemus sylvaticus (L.): integrated latitudinal pattern and mosaic insular evolution

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Abstract Aim 

The distinct nature of island populations has traditionally been attributed either to adaptation to particular insular conditions or to random genetic effects. In order to assess the relative importance of these two disparate processes, insular effects were addressed in the European wood mouse, Apodemus sylvaticus (Linnaeus, 1758). Location 

Wood mice from 33 localities on both mainland and various Atlantic and western Mediterranean islands were considered. This sampling covers only part of the latitudinal range of A. sylvaticus but included the two main genetic clades identified by previous studies. Islands encompass a range of geographical conditions (e.g. small islands fringing the continent through large and isolated ones). Methods 

The insular syndrome primarily invokes variations in body size, but ecological factors such as release from competition, niche widening and food availability should also influence other characters related to diet. In the present study, the morphology of the wood mice was quantified based on two characters involved in feeding: the size and shape of the mandibles and first upper molars. The size of the mandible is also a proxy for the body size of the animal. Patterns of morphological differentiation of both features were estimated using two-dimensional outline analysis based on Fourier methods. Results 

Significant differences between mainland and island populations were observed in most cases for both the mandibles and molars. However, molars and mandibles displayed divergent patterns. Mandible shape diverged mostly on islands of intermediate remoteness and competition levels, whereas molars exhibited the greatest shape differentiation on small islands, such as Port-Cros and Porquerolles. A mosaic pattern was also displayed for size. Body and mandible size increased on Ibiza, but molar size remained similar to mainland populations. Mosaic patterns were, however, not apparent in the mainland populations. Congruent latitudinal variations were evident for the size and shape of both mandibles and molars. Main conclusions 

Mosaic evolution appears to characterize insular divergence. The molar seems to be more prone to change with reduced population size on small islands, whereas the mandible could be more sensitive to peculiar environmental conditions on large and remote islands.
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Keywords: Apodemus sylvaticus; Fourier analysis; Rodentia; body size; dentition; island syndrome; mandible shape; morphometrics

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-02-01

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