Ecomorphometric variation and sexual dimorphism in the common shrew (Sorex araneus)

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We investigated the evolution of the biomechanics of the mandible in island and mainland populations of the common shrew on the west coast of Scotland. We predicted that climatic differences between populations should cause differences in prey composition leading to changes in the mechanical potential (MP) of the mandible. In females, MP was correlated with climate, with greater MP in warmer and drier habitats. In males, MP was significantly greater than in females but there was no relationship between male MP and climate. This led to increased sexual dimorphism in colder and wetter climates. The same pattern was found after a phylogenetic least squares analysis was conducted to account for shared phylogenetic history. We discuss possible reasons for this pattern, including male–male combat and the greater necessity of females to feed as efficiently as possible to meet their extremely high energy requirements during lactation.

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