1. Habitat fragmentation and transformation are key drivers of species declines in landscapes. Most of the current understanding of species' responses to environmental change originates from studies of populations and communities. However, phenotypic variation offers another key aspect of species responses and could provide additional insights into the functional drivers of population change.
2. The goal of this study was to address this gap by exploring the morphological changes of a species of carabid beetle (Notonomus resplendens) with a known population response to the Wog Wog Habitat Fragmentation Experiment in Australia. We measured morphological traits associated with body size, head width, and dispersal ability. We quantified patterns of morphological variation over time and between native Eucalyptus forest fragments and the surrounding pine plantation matrix and the continuous intact native Eucalyptus forest controls.
3. We found sexually dimorphic morphological changes in response to the experimental treatments. Males increased in size, had larger legs and had smaller interocular widths in the matrix in both the short and long terms. Conversely, females became comparatively smaller and had increased interocular widths in the same treatments. Effects in the fragments were similar to those in the matrix, but exhibited more uncertainty.
4. Our results demonstrate that species can show morphological change in response to environmental change over very short time periods. We demonstrate that using both population and morphological data allows stronger inferences about the mechanisms behind species responses to environmental change.