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Phenotypic variability and environmental tolerance shed light on nine-banded armadillo Nearctic invasion

  • Anderson FeijóEmail author
  • Bruce D. Patterson
  • Pedro Cordeiro-Estrela
Original Paper

Abstract

High phenotypic diversity is an intrinsic attribute of successful invaders, but remains poorly studied. Here, we investigate the role of phenotypic traits in biological invasions using one of the few Neotropical mammal lineages that has successfully invaded the Nearctic, the nine-banded armadillo Dasypus novemcinctus. Specifically, we analyzed cranial phenotypic variation of the nine-banded armadillo, comparing ecological associations throughout its native range with those experienced by invasive populations in the United States. We also compared the climatic conditions faced by native and invader armadillos to determine whether the species has broadened its environmental tolerance or remained within its native climatic pool. Our study shows that D. novemcinctus exhibits pronounced morphological variation through its range and that the phenotypic pattern in newly invaded areas departs from trends of the species in its native range. The morphological differences exhibited by invader armadillos can be related to their reduced reliance on myrmecophagy, with armadillos from temperate open areas in North America exploiting a broader range of dietary items. Moreover, we found the climatic conditions faced by alien armadillos during the initial phases of their Nearctic invasion fell within the native climatic range. In sum, high phenotypic variability and substantial environmental tolerance in the nine-banded armadillo help to explain its nearly ubiquitous distribution across contrasting ecosystems in its native range as well as its successful Nearctic invasion. Our findings underscore the importance of studying the covariation of morphology and climate across native and invasive ranges to understand biological responses in novel environments.

Keywords

Alien invader Cingulata Myrmecophagy Niche segregation Relaxed selection Skull adaptation 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the following curators and collection managers for permission to examine specimens in their respective collections: Mario de Vivo and Juliana Gualda-Barros (MZUSP); João Alves de Oliveira and Sérgio Maia Vaz (MN); Lena Geise (UERJ); Claudia Guimarães Costa (MCN-M); Fernando Perini (UFMG); Maria Nazareth Ferreira da Silva (INPA); José de Sousa e Silva Jr. and M. Suely Aparecida Marques-Aguiar (MPEG); Jader Marinho-Filho (UNB); Anternor Silva Jr. and Sebastião Pereira (MHNCI); Sergio Althoff and Elisabete Rechenberg (FURB); Alexandre Uarth Christoff (MCNU); Marcia Jardim (MCN); Diego Astúa and Juliana Correia (UFPE); Robert Voss and Eileen Westwig (AMNH); David Flores and Sergio Lucero (MACN); Enrique M. González (MNHN); Raul Maneyro (ZVCM); Itati Olivares (MLP); Mónica Díaz and Rubén Barquez (CML); Isabel Gamarra de Fox (MNHNP); Kathia Rivero (MNK); Isabel Dias (CBF); Víctor Pacheco (MUSM); Claudia Medina and Fernando Forero (IAVH); Hugo López (ICN); Santiago Burneo and Maria Alejandra Camacho (QCAZ); Jorge Brito (MECN); Luis Albuja and Pablo Moreno (MEPN); Javier Sánchez (EBRG); Arnaldo Ferrer (MHNLS); Carmen Ferreira (MBUCV); Stefan Merker (SMNS); Christiane Funk (ZMB_Mam); Daniela Kalthoff (NRM); Frank Zachos and Alexander Bibl (NMW); Marie-Dominique Wandhammer (MZS Mam); and Hans Mejlon (UUZM). We would also like to give special thanks to Noé de la Sancha, Júlio Vilela, and Natalia Cortés Delgado for valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This work was partially supported by CAPES, CNPq Sanduiche Scholarship (Grant Number 01129/2015-9) at the Field Museum of Natural History, and the AMNH Grants Program (Collection Study). AF is currently supported by Chinese Academy of Sciences President´s International Fellowship Initiative (Grant No. 2018PB0040).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 420 kb)

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Zoological Systematics and Evolution, Institute of ZoologyChinese Academy of SciencesChaoyang DistrictChina
  2. 2.Laboratório de Mamíferos, Departamento de Sistemática e Ecologia, CCENUniversidade Federal da ParaíbaJoão PessoaBrazil
  3. 3.Integrative Research CenterField Museum of Natural HistoryChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Programa de Pós-Graduação Em Ciências Biológicas (Zoologia), Departamento de Sistemática e Ecologia, CCENUniversidade Federal da ParaíbaJoão PessoaBrazil

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