Morphometric patterns in assemblages of Cricetid rodents from the Central and Western Cordilleras of Colombia

Edilson Patiño-Castillo, Sergio Solari


The mechanisms that mediate the formation and coexistence of species assemblages have been a historical issue in evolutionary ecology, raising the question of whether these assemblages are shaped at random or are influenced by biotic and abiotic processes.  An increasingly popular hypothesis points out that certain patterns or "assemblage rules" determine coexistence patterns within assemblages at a regional or continental scale.  Thus, morphological and ecological similarities could influence the degree and intensity of competition between species.  Considering the morphology of organisms within an environmental framework, we could assess the morphology and understand the ecological role of a given species within the assemblage.  This study assesses the similarities and differences of Andean rodents within local assemblages through a Principal Component Analysis (PCA), using craniodental characters of these species to establish whether the relationships between morphometry and coexistence provide evidence to explain assemblage structure patterns.  We measured rodent specimens deposited in the Colección Teriológica of the University of Antioquia, collected from the Western and Central cordilleras of Colombia.  We recorded 15 craniodental variables from all specimens, which were analyzed with a PCA to search for a general organization pattern within assemblages.  Afterwards, we plotted the scores for principal components 1 and 2 to evidence the separation or clustering of specimens in an Euclidean space.  We recorded 424 specimens from 10 genera and 18 species of the family Cricetidae, with the genera Nephelomys and Thomasomys showing the largest number of specimens.  In the overall PCA, the first three components account for 85.1 % of the variation, with 63.9 % for PC1.  The variables with the greatest contributions to PC1 were APZ, AA and AFM; to PC2, LFI, APZ and AFM; and to PC3, LFI, LO and LHM.  We detected some overlapping and scattering patterns among species at the morphospace defined by PC1 and PC2.

We recovered an arrangement of species that shows differences in size and shape between them (as a function of their morphology), as evidenced in the scatter plots for the regional and local analyses.  Besides, we did not find a general pattern for the load of variables, although some of these accounted for a larger part of the variation in the overall and local analyses (APZ, AFM, LFI, LHM and AR), indicating the segregation among species. Although the local analyses revealed a similar pattern with these loads changing from site to site, five variables account for the largest variation, what we interpret as a key role to determine the morphometric and/or ecological segregation among species.  We believe this first approximation shows the value of ecomorphological studies in understanding patterns of diversity and geographic replacement of species; these patterns should be integrated with analyses of ecological aspects to understand the coexistence of species within local assemblages. 



Análisis de componentes principales; ecología evolutiva; morfometría; reglas de ensamblaje; roedores andinos.

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