Responses of species to environmental gradients are important and frequent determinants of geographic phenotypic variation that can drive adaptive processes. Nonetheless, random genetic processes such as drift can also result in geographic variation in phenotypes, and should be evaluated before implicating selection as the process driving phenotypic change. We examined geographic variation in wing morphology of Artibeus lituratus among 18 different sites distributed across interior Atlantic Forest of Paraguay and Argentina. Moreover, we contrasted geographic variation with environmental, spatial, and genetic variation to test hypotheses related to selection and drift and their impacts on wing morphology. For A. lituratus distributed across interior Atlantic Forest, significant differences among sites characterized variation in wing morphology. Geographic variation was significantly related to climatic variables but not spatial or genetic distances. Such a pattern suggests that phenotypic variation is related to selection for particular environmental regimes, and not genetic drift. Four significant dimensions of phenotypic variation were determined. Three dimensions were related to variation among individuals in terms of wing tips, whereas one was related to overall body size. Wing tips are important for manoeuverability during flight and differences among sites likely reflect differences in forest and vegetation structure that must be managed during foraging. Although climate provides good surrogates for environmental variation, it is probably only an indirect cue of selection regimes that determine variation in wing morphology. Future studies should evaluate more direct environmental measures such as vegetation structure when attempting to interpret geographical variation in wing morphology.
- geographical variation
- wing morphology