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23 November 2022 Temperature-associated morphological changes in an African arid-zone ground squirrel
Miyako H. Warrington, Jane Waterman
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The ecology, life histories, and physiology of many animals are changing in response to human-induced climate change. As the Earth warms, the ability of an animal to thermoregulate becomes ecologically and physiologically significant. Morphological adaptations to warmer temperatures include larger appendages and smaller bodies. We examined morphological features in a ground squirrel, Xerus inauris, living in the arid zones of South Africa, to examine whether squirrels have responded to increases in temperature and changes in seasonal rainfall with morphological modifications over the last 18 years. We found that over time, absolute hindfoot length and proportional hindfoot length increased, while spine length decreased. These changes are consistent with ecogeographical rules (Allen's rule and Bergmann's rule) and provide evidence in support of “shape-shifting” in response to climatic warming. Body mass also increased with time; however, these changes were not consistent with Bergmann's rule, indicating that mass is influenced by other ecological factors (e.g., resource availability). Our study adds to the growing evidence that animal morphologies are changing in response to changing climatic conditions, although it remains to be seen whether these changes are adaptive.

Miyako H. Warrington and Jane Waterman "Temperature-associated morphological changes in an African arid-zone ground squirrel," Journal of Mammalogy 104(2), 410-420, (23 November 2022).
Received: 25 January 2022; Accepted: 24 October 2022; Published: 23 November 2022
Allen's rule
Bergmann's rule
climate change
Xerus inauris
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