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Morphological variability and developmental instability in the badger in Denmark



Journal of Biogeography, Volume 30,Number 6, June 2003, pp. 949-958(10)
Blackwell Publishing


Pertoldi C.; Bach L.A.; Madsen A.B.; Randi E.; Loeschcke V.


Local populations from different geographical regions may differ in the selection regimes to which they are exposed. Differences in environmental factors and population density may affect the relative importance of different selective forces (e.g. natural vs. sexual selection). We suggest a direction of investigation concerned with the developmental instability of morphological traits. The goal is to disclose putative small-scale geographical differences in the evolutionary forces, which may be hard to detect.

Craniometrical investigations were carried out on ninety-eight skulls and teeth of the Eurasian badger (Meles meles) collected during the period 199597 from three different populations in Denmark. One of these thrives at low population density, whereas the two others are characterized by high local density.

The skulls were investigated for developmental instability (DI) using fluctuating asymmetry (FA) as its estimator. FA was measured on canines, molars, premolar teeth and other skull and mandible traits.

Evidence was found suggesting differentiation among populations in mean degree of FA, and the FA values measured on canines were higher in the high-density populations. FA of the canines was significantly higher in males than females, in contrast to FA of the other traits. Evidence of a negative relationship between canine size and their FA was found, whereas no significant correlations were found between the molar and premolar teeth measures and their FA.

Our results suggest that canines could be under directional selection stemming from intrasexual competition, which may be stronger in high-density zones. The other teeth investigated seem to be under a stabilizing regime hence their FA is mainly affected by environmental stresses. The negative relationship between canine size and FA found in males suggests the capacity of badgers to respond in an evolutionary way to environmental changes, despite the low genetic variability previously found at the molecular level.


Fluctuating asymmetry; developmental instability; badger; sexual selection; population density

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