Cranial morphometric and fine scale genetic variability of two adjacentMastomys natalensis (Rodentia: Muridae) populations
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The objective of this multidisciplinary project was to study the intra-specific morphometric and genetic variability between two adjacent populations ofMastomys natalensis Smith, 1834 living in different environments. The study of micro-evolutionary processes at work by using geometrical morphometrics allowed us to define two groups, characterized by different features of the skull shape. Using molecular microsatellites analysis, we showed that the two populations exchanged high gene flow and could be considered as a single panmictic unit. These results suggest that this widely-distributed species exhibits a local population-level differentiation in shape variation of skulls, probably due to different ecological situations. We speculate that the variability in the cranial characteristics (connected with the feeding ability) could reveal a local adaptation preferentially based on the food availability. We propose an explanation linking the shape differences to the fitness gain in the exploitation of resources available in the two environments. Since we suggest a potential differentiation process between populations, we believe that the two groups constitute even better models to understand the factors involved in the early stages of local adaptations.
Key wordsMastomys natalensis intra-specific variability skull shape variation geometric morphometrics genetic differentiation microsatellites analysis Tanzania Tanzania
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