Geographical and latitudinal variation in growth patterns and adult body size of Swedish moose (Alces alces)

Abstract

We examined the geographical pattern in growth and adult body size among 14 populations of Swedish moose (Alces alces) using data from 4,294 moose (≥1.5 years old) killed during the hunting season in 1989–1992. In both sexes, adult body mass was significantly positively correlated with latitude. Moose in northern populations had a 15–20% larger adult body mass than moose in the south. Juvenile body mass was correlated with neither latitude nor adult body mass. Thus, variation in time (years) and rate of body growth after the juvenile stage were responsible for most of the variation in adult body mass among populations. Moose in northern populations grew for approximately 2 more years of life than southern moose. In contrast to adult body mass, skeletal size (measured as jawbone length) was not correlated with latitude, suggesting that variation in adult body mass was primarily due to differences in fat reserves. Discrimination between population characteristics, such as moose density, climate, and the amount of browse available to moose, showed climatic harshness to be the most important variable explaining geographical variation in body mass among populations. The results support the notion that in mammals body size increases with latitude in accordance with Bergmann's rule. We conclude that (1) variation in patterns of growth after the juvenile stage is the main cause of the latitudinal trend in adult body size in moose, and (2) climatic conditions are a more important factor than population density and availability of food in explaining geographical variation in growth patterns and adult body mass between populations of Swedish moose.

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Correspondence to Håkan Sand.

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Sand, H., Cederlund, G. & Danell, K. Geographical and latitudinal variation in growth patterns and adult body size of Swedish moose (Alces alces). Oecologia 102, 433–442 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00341355

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Key words

  • Growth and body size
  • Latitudinal variation
  • Bergmann's rule
  • Life-history variation
  • Alces alces