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Clinal Geographic Variation in Mammals: Implications for the Study of Chronoclines

Paul L. Koch
Paleobiology
Vol. 12, No. 3 (Summer, 1986), pp. 269-281
Published by: Paleontological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2400433
Page Count: 13
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Clinal Geographic Variation in Mammals: Implications for the Study of Chronoclines
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Abstract

Mammalian species often exhibit clinal geographic variation in body size: individuals tend to be larger in areas with lower mean annual temperature. Climatic change involving increasing or decreasing mean annual temperature may cause clines to shift geographically, resulting in a phenotypic shift at all affected locales within a species' range. I assess the potential of shifting geographic clines to produce morphological trends in the fossil record. Five extant North American mammalian species (Didelphis virginiana, Mephitis mephitis, Odocoileus virginianus, Scalopus aquaticus, and Sciurus carolinensis) are examined to quantify size change along latitudinal clines and to estimate the geographic range and temperature difference commonly associated with a given difference in body size. Relative to body size, the observed size range of skeletal characters within each of these five species is comparable to that seen in a much larger sample of North American mammals. Thus patterns of variation documented for the five species may be used to assess the likelihood of cline translocation as an explanation of size change in the mammalian fossil record. As a case study, I examine three lineages from the Early Eocene of the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming. I determine that size change in these chronoclines represents evolutionary change and is not merely the result of shifting geographic clines.

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