Adaptive differentiation of body size in speciating mole rats

Eviatar Nevo, Avigdor Beiles, Giora Heth, Shimon Simson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report the body weight of 1,653 subterranean mole rats comprising 12 populations and 4 chromosomal species (2n=52, 54, 58 and 60) of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies in Israel. The sample was collected from 1970 to 1985 and includes all captured animals with a minimal age of 10 months. The results indicated the following. (a) Body weight of males was significantly higher than that of females. (b) There is a southward latitudinal gradient in body size. Northern animals living in cooler and more productive mesic environments are larger than southern animals living in warmer and less productive xeric environments. (c) The interspecific differences for each sex are statistically significant. (d) Body size is negatively correlated with temperature variables, and positively correlated with plant cover (reflecting productivity or food resources) and rainy days. (e) The best predictors of body size, explaining up to 87% of the variation in size included various combinations of temperature variables and plant cover. We conclude that in both adaptation and speciation natural selection is a major agent of differentiation of body size in accordance with multiple factors, primarily temperature and food resources operating on the energetics balance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-333
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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