Phenotypic plasticity under desert environment constraints: Mandible variation in the dwarf fat-tailed jerboa, pygeretmus pumilio (Rodentia: Dipodidae)

B. Kryštufek, F. Janžekovič, G. Shenbrot, D. Ivajnšič, T. Klenovšek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Arid areas have a comparatively narrow range of habitat types, with restricted variation in environmental parameters, leaving narrow boundaries for phenotypic variation to correlate with ecological variables. To test this presumption, we explored variation in size and shape of the mandible in the dwarf fat-tailed jerboa (Pygeretmus pumilio (Kerr, 1792)) under the constraints of a rigorous desert environment. Size varied significantly and predictably with geographic position and demonstrated a strong, nonlinear longitudinal pattern. Moreover, size was associated with several other climatic variables but not with soil properties or with proxies for primary productivity. Our results suggest that for rodents exposed to rapid and extreme changes, larger size may have multiple advantages, notably in maintaining euthermia during cold nights and efficient water metabolism under aridity stress, in accumulating fat reserves for hibernation, and in digging deeper burrows, better protected from surface extremes. Shape varied clinally along the longitudinal transect, and the pattern was affected more by temperature than by precipitation. We conclude that the success of dwarf fat-tailed jerboa in occupying an extensive geographic range relies on their ability to meet environmental heterogeneity through cohesive and diverse responses, including physiology, behaviour, life-history traits, and morphological plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)940-951
Number of pages12
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Volume97
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019

Keywords

  • Bergmann’s rule
  • Desert ecology
  • Dwarf fat-tailed jerboa
  • Ecomorphology
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Pygeretmus pumilio
  • Resource availability

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