Body size of the red fox Vulpes vulpes in Spain: The effect of agriculture

Yoram Yom-Tov, Shlomith Yom-Tov, Josefina Barreiro, Juan Carlos Blanco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The body size of animals is affected by several factors, including ambient temperature and food availability. Ambient temperature is often negatively related to body size (Bergmann's rule) whereas an improved diet, especially during growth, has a positive effect. Animals commensal with man commonly exploit additional food sources (e.g. garbage dumps), thereby increasing their food supply. Using museum material, we studied morphological variation in skull size (and thus body size) among Spanish red foxes. Four measurements were taken of each skull and were related to the habitat from which the foxes were collected (agricultural and non-agricultural), and to latitude as a proxy for ambient temperature. The skull size of foxes collected in agricultural areas during the late 20th Century was significantly larger than that of those from non-agricultural areas, and was negatively related to latitude, thus contradicting Bergmann's rule. We suggest that increased food availability from animal husbandry is the cause for the observed increase in skull size (and thus body size).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-734
Number of pages6
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Volume90
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2007

Keywords

  • Animal husbandry
  • Bergmann's rule
  • Commensal animals
  • Food availability

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