Article in Journal of Mammalian Evolution - Online version
Veli-Matti Kangas, Seppo Rytkönen, Laura Kvist, Teemu Käpylä, Tuire Nygrén & Jouni Aspi
Intra-specific geographic variation is probably one of the most common patterns studied in ungulate morphology. However, the shape of the mandible, a crucial feature with regard to feeding, has been greatly understudied in this context. Here, we utilized a museum collection of moose (Alces alces) mandibles to investigate whether we could detect significant variation in this species, and test for the existence of geographic patterns and associations with population genetic structure. We applied a landmark-based geometric morphometrics approach, analyzing shape data with principal component analysis and linear mixed models. A significant geographic shift in the shape of the moose mandible was revealed.
The main pattern was similar in both sexes; however, there was a consistent difference in shape between males and females over the latitudinal scale. The main changes included an enlargement in the attachment surfaces of the muscles controlling biting and mastication, suggesting more effective mastication towards the north, plausibly as an adaptive response to a harder and tougher wintertime diet. Additionally, more subtle, yet statistically significant age-related shape variation was discovered. Interestingly, no or only a weak association between the morphometric variation and the genetic population structure was detected with neutral molecular markers.
Last updated: 29.8.2016