Morphometrics of speciating mole rats: Adaptive differentiation in ecological speciation

E. Nevo, E. Tchernov, A. Beiles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The morphometrics of subterranean mole rats, Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies in Israel, were studied. A total of 42 skull and body variables of 327 adults from 44 populations across the ranges of the 4 chromosomal species (2n = 52, 54, 58 and 60) were measured. The results showed: a. in general, significantly higher morphological values in males than in females; b. significant interspecific quantitative diffferences in 15 skull variables of males, and in 3 of females; but no qualitative diagnosis of any of the species; c. an intercorrelation between most skull variables at different orgamsmal levels, and a uniform and complete correlation with weight; d. a statistical discrimination in both metric and nonmetric multivariate analyses between most species pairs; e. an indication of high morphological similarity based on the relatively small multivariate Mahalanobis distances of dissimilarity between species; f. a possible explanation for a significant part of the variance in most skull and body variables resulting from a combination of temperature variables and water availability; g. a declination in size in skull and body variables between northern and southern species; h. the order of speciation events to be 2n = (54, 52)→58→60. Based on these results we conclude: 1. no morphological breaks are associated with the speciation of the S. ehrenbergi complex, and morphological differentiation is quantitative rather than qualitative between the species: 2. morphological diversity is significantly explained by climatic selection, and is therefore adaptive and explicable on even very low selective pressures over evolutionary time: 3. the morphospecies seem unable to reliably reflect the biological species in the S. ehrenbergi complex, and morphological differentiation, at least in this superspecies, evolves in a gradual rather than a punctual way: this would conform with Neo‐Darwinian evolutionary theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-314
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1988


  • Chromosomal species
  • Natural Selection
  • Phylogeny
  • Spalax ehrenbergi
  • Subterranean mammals
  • volution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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