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Rapid morphological divergence in two closely related and co-occurring species over the last 50 years


We studied morphological variation in two closely related and ecologically similar species of mice of the genus Peromyscus, the deer mouse (P. maniculatus) and white-footed mouse (P. leucopus), over the last 50 years in Southern Quebec. We found that contemporary populations of the two species are distinct in morphology and interpret this differentiation as a reflection of resource partitioning, a mechanism favouring their local coexistence. While there was no size trend, geographic or temporal, both species displayed a concomitant change in the shape of their skull over the last 50 years, although this change was much more apparent in the white-footed mouse. As a result, the two species diverged over time and became more distinct in their morphology. The observed changes in morphology are large given the short time scale. During this period, there was also a shift in abundance of the two species in Southern Quebec, consistent with the northern displacement of the range of the white-footed mouse in the last 15 years. Our study thus reports the changes in morphology of two co-occurring mammal species that were accompanied by changes in distribution and local abundance, potentially in response to rapid climate change.

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We are grateful to landowners and park managers, the staff at the Gault Nature Reserve, field-work assistants and the many graduate students who participated in specimen collection, A. Howell for his help with the Redpath Museum specimens, K. Khidas at the Canadian Museum of Nature, R. Smith who collected the data used in Fig. S2, A. Cardini, the editor and associate editor, and two anonymous reviewers for comments on a previous draft of this manuscript. This work was supported by a FQRNT Team Grant #147236 to VM and AG, NSERC Discovery Grants # 341918-2012 to VM and # 2014-05840 to AG, a Canada Research Chair Tier 1, a Liber Ero Chair and Killam Fellowship to AG, and support from the LabEx Sciences archéologiques de Bordeaux (#ANR-10-LABX-52) to RL.

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Correspondence to Virginie Millien.

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Fig. S1

Position of the 20 landmarks digitized on the left ventral view of the skull. (1) Anterior extremity between both incisors in the premaxilla; (2) Antero-lateral extremity of left incisor alveolus; (3) Anterior extremity of left incisive foramen; (4) Anterior lateral extremity swelling of the rostrum corresponding to the premaxilla-maxilla suture; (5) Contact point between the maxillary arm and the rostrum; (6) Anterior extremity of the zygomatic arc; (7) Posterior extremity of anterior incisive foramen; (8) Anterior extremity of dental tooth row located on the left first upper molar; (9) Labial-side point inserted between left first and second upper molars; (10) Posterior foramen palatine; (11) Posterior extremity of dental tooth row; (12) Posterior extremity of palatine; (13) Anterior maximum point of curvature of the squamosal; (14) Foramen ovale; (15) Meeting point between the basiphenoid, basioccipital and tympanic bulla; (16) Mid-point of the basioccipital-basisphenoid suture; (17) Posterior tip of the external auditory meatus; (18) Mid-basioccipital point; (19) Anterior extremity of foramen magnum; (20) Internal flexion of the occipital condyle (PDF 138 kb)

Fig. S2

Proportion of small mammal species collected for historical (1959, 1960 and 1966; 284 specimens total) and recent (2007 to 2013; 332 specimens) field surveys conducted at sites MSH, MR and MY in Southern Quebec. All specimens are housed at the Redpath Museum, McGill University. Although these collection surveys are not an accurate estimate of actual species abundance, these data clearly show a shift from communities dominated by the deer mouse, P. maniculatus (in dark orange), to communities dominated by the white-footed mouse, P. leucopus (in dark blue) (PDF 79 kb)

Fig. S3

Mean monthly temperature from 1913 to 2016 at the Weather station of Drumondville (45.53 N, 72.29 W, Climate Identifier: 7022160). Temperature increased between 1913 and 2016 for all 12 months of the year (all P < 0.01). Source of data: Government of Canada, Environment and natural resources, https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment.html (PDF 57 kb)

Table S1

This table contains all the specimen data: centroid size, PC shape axes and raw coordinates of the rotated configurations projected into tangent space, body mass (in gram) and head-and-body length (in mm). VM, QC and RM specimens are from the Redpath Museum, McGill University, and CMN specimens are from the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa (XLSX 377 kb)

Table S2

Eigenvalue, percent variance explained and loadings of the first 11 PCA axes (XLSX 57 kb)

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Millien, V., Ledevin, R., Boué, C. et al. Rapid morphological divergence in two closely related and co-occurring species over the last 50 years. Evol Ecol 31, 847–864 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10682-017-9917-0

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  • Character displacement
  • Morphometry
  • Peromyscus
  • Rodent
  • Phenotypic variation
  • Species segregation