Does weather shape rodents? Climate related changes in morphology of two heteromyid species

Mosheh Wolf, Michael Friggens, Jorge Salazar-Bravo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Geographical variation in morphometric characters in heteromyid rodents has often correlated with climate gradients. Here, we used the long-term database of rodents trapped in the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, USA to test whether significant annual changes in external morphometric characters are observed in a region with large variations in temperature and precipitation. We looked at the relationships between multiple temperature and precipitation variables and a number of morphological traits (body mass, body, tail, hind leg, and ear length) for two heteromyid rodents, Dipodomys merriami and Perognathus flavescens. Because these rodents can live multiple years in the wild, the climate variables for the year of the capture and the previous 2 years were included in the analyses. Using multiple linear regressions, we found that all of our morphometric traits, with the exception of tail length in D. merriami, had a significant relationship with one or more of the climate variables used. Our results demonstrate that effects of climate change on morphological traits occur over short periods, even in noninsular mammal populations. It is unclear, though, whether these changes are the result of morphological plasticity or natural selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-101
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Climate variation
  • Dipodomys merriami
  • Morphological variation
  • Perognathus flavescens


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