Chromosomal species of the mole rat, Spalax ehrenbergi, in Israel have been shown to display distinct adaptive strategies to increasing aridity. This adaptive radiation appeared to be associated with an increase in allozymic heterozygosity. In the present study, the developmental stability (DS) estimated by fluctuating asymmetry (FA) of dental traits was used to assess the suitability of habitat and the efficiency of adaptation to local environmental conditions among populations and chromosomal species. Although FA levels were highly heterogeneous among populations, they were not found to differ between species. DS of populations appeared, however, to be impaired at higher altitudes and in indurate soils. Since these environmental features were largely covariant, the effect of each one could not be precisely determined. Interestingly, while aridity is considered as the major selective force acting on populations southwards, DS was not altered under arid conditions, suggesting that mole rat populations were adapted to their local conditions of aridity. However, the cline of aridity is matched to several environmental and genetic clines among which are the increasing heterozygosity and recombination rate among species southwards. In studies of natural populations, the potential complementary effects of environmental and genetics on DS have to be considered and hamper the interpretation of habitat suitability expressed by DS in terms of adaptive strategies.
- Chromosomal evolution
- Environmental stress
- Fluctuating asymmetry
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics