Geographic variation in body size of five Australian marsupials supports Bergmann’s thermoregulation hypothesis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Despite a large body of research, little agreement has been reached on the ultimate driver(s) of geographic variation in body size (mass and/or length). Here we use skull length measurements (as a surrogate for body mass) from five Australian marsupial species to test the primary hypotheses of geographic variation in body size (relating to ambient temperature, productivity, and seasonality). We used a revised articulation of Bergmann’s rule, wherein evidence for thermoregulation (heat dissipation or heat conservation) is considered supportive of Bergmann’s rule. We modeled the skull lengths of four Petaurid glider species and the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) as a function of indices of ambient temperature, productivity, and seasonality. The skull length of Petaurus ariel, P. notatus, and the squirrel glider (P. norfolcensis), increased with increasing winter minimum temperature, while that of T. vulpecula decreased with increasing summer maximum temperature. The skull length of P. ariel decreased with indices of productivity, falsifying the productivity hypothesis. Only P. ariel met the hypothesis of seasonality, as skull length increased with increasing seasonality. Thermoregulation was the most consistently supported driver of geographic variation in body size, as we found evidence of either heat conservation or heat dissipation in four of the five species examined. We found the geographic range of the individual species and the climate space in which the species occurred was integral to understanding the species’ responses to climate variables. Future studies should use specimens that are representative of a species’ entire geographic range, encompass a variety of climatic regions, and use consistent methodologies and terminology
when testing drivers of geographic variation in body size.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbergyaa046
Pages (from-to)1010-1020
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Volume101
Issue number4
Early online date16 May 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2020

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