Insularity and Aridity as Drivers of Mandibular Disparity in Thylamys elegans (Waterhouse, 1839) from Populations of the Atacama Desert, Chile

Animals (Basel). 2022 May 4;12(9):1179. doi: 10.3390/ani12091179.


Island ecosystems differ in several elements from mainland ecosystems and may induce variations related to natural selection and patterns of adaptation in most aspects of the biology of an organism. Thylamys elegans (Waterhouse, 1839) is a marsupial endemic to Chile, distributed from Loa River to Concepción. Historically, three subspecies have been described: Thylamys elegans elegans, Thylamys elegans coquimbensis and Thylamys elegans soricinus. For this research, two morphometric approaches and a biomechanical model were used to compare the mandible shapes and biomechanics between two Chilean mouse opossum populations belonging to different subspecies: one from the coastal desert of Chile (T. e. coquimbensis) and the other from the central inland region (T. e. elegans). Additionally, mandibles of insular populations found in the Reserva Nacional Pinguino de Humboldt (RNPH)), from which the subspecies association is unknown, were also included. The results showed that insular populations have differences in mandibular shapes, sizes and biomechanical characteristics compared to continental populations, which may be related to environmental variables like aridity and vegetation cover, prey type, insularity effects and/or the founder effect on micromammals, apart from vicariance hypotheses and other selective pressures.

PMID:35565606 | DOI:10.3390/ani12091179