Revisiting classic ecogeographical rules, using a widely distributed mouse species (Apodemus draco)

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  • 1 College of Biological and Pharmaceutical, China Three Gorges University, No. 8, Daxue Road, Yichang City, Hubei Province 443002, China
  • 2 State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 20 Nanxincun, Xiangshan, Beijing 100093, China
  • 3 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 19(A) Yuquan Road, Shijingshan District, Beijing 100049, China
  • 4 State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Regional Ecological Processes and Functions Assessment, Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, Beijing 100012, China
  • 5 State-owned Longmenhe Forest Farm, Xingshan, Yichang, Hubei Province 443711, China

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Abstract

Ecogeographical rules predict an association between specific adaptive morphological/physiological traits and latitude, elevation or cooler climates. Such ecogeographical effects are often expressed most clearly in widely distributed species due to continuous selective adaptation occurring over their geographic range. Based on 40 population sampling sites of 116 adult individuals (female, n=44; male, n=72) across an elevational range of 191–2573 m, we tested whether morphological traits accorded with predictions of Bergmann’s rule, Allen’s rule and Hesse’s rule for the South China field mouse (Apodemus draco). The effects of elevation on body size, appendage length and heart size were tested by fitting Linear Mixed-Effects Models. None conformed to Bergmann’s, Allen’s or Hesse’s rule. Clines in body size opposed Bergmann’s rule, and foot and snout length ratios opposed Allen’s rule. We conclude that South China field mice, a widely distributed species, exhibit an acute thermoregulation mechanism in which in colder conditions body sizes decrease – as opposed to altering heart sizes or surface area to volume ratios – requiring less energy to regulate body temperatures. Also, there was a stronger selective pressure to increase partial appendage lengths (i.e., foot and snout) to adapt to the specific environment (e.g. longer period of snow cover, up to 2573 m) rather than on a general shortening of appendages to cope with colder conditions.

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