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      3D Geometric Morphometrics Reveals Convergent Character Displacement in the Central European Contact Zone between Two Species of Hedgehogs (Genus Erinaceus)

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          Abstract

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          Hedgehogs, being insectivores with slow metabolisms, are quite sensitive to temperature and food availability. As a consequence, their ranges have oscillated in relation to past climate changes. Species that have evolved in different regions, but their ranges have shifted and overlapped subsequently, often represent intense competitors as a result of ecological similarities. The present study focuses on this phenomenon in the contact zone in central Europe and adjacent regions, using genetic determination of species and description of size and shape of skull, the morphological structure mirroring many selection pressures related to ecology. While animals living outside of the contact zone show marked differences between the two species, individuals within the contact zone are more alike with a smaller skull size and a convergent jawbone shape. Changes in skull size can be related to inter-species competition and also facilitated by selection pressure, mediated by overpopulated medium-sized predators such as foxes or badgers. Since the function of the lower jaw is mainly connected to feeding, we hypothesize that this pattern is due to the selection to size and shape related to competition for food resources. The present study helps to describe general patterns related to species formation, as well as species responses to anthropogenic environmental changes.

          Abstract

          Hedgehogs, as medium-sized plantigrade insectivores with low basal metabolic rates and related defensive anti-predator strategies, are quite sensitive to temperature and ecosystem productivity. Their ranges therefore changed dramatically due to Pleistocene climate oscillations, resulting in allopatric speciation and the subsequent formation of secondary contact zones. Such interactions between closely related species are known to generate strong evolutionary forces responsible for niche differentiation. In this connection, here, we detail the results of research on the phenotypic evolution in the two species of hedgehog present in central Europe, as based on genetics and geometric morphometrics in samples along a longitudinal transect that includes the contact zone between the species. While in allopatry, Erinaceus europaeus is found to have a larger skull than E. roumanicus and distinct cranial and mandibular shapes; the members of the two species in sympatry are smaller and more similar to each other, with a convergent shape of the mandible. The relevant data fail to reveal any major role for either hybridisation or clinal variation. We, therefore, hypothesise that competitive pressure exerted on the studied species does not generate divergent selection sufficient for divergent character displacement to evolve, instead giving rise to convergent selection in the face of resource limitation in the direction of smaller skull size. Considering the multi-factorial constraints present in the relevant adaptive landscape, reduction in size could also be facilitated by predator pressure in ecosystems characterised by mesopredator release and other anthropogenic factors. As the function of the animals’ lower jaw is mainly connected with feeding (in contrast to the cranium whose functions are obviously more complex), we interpret the similarity in shape as reflecting local adaptations to overlapping dietary resources in the two species and hence as convergent character displacement.

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          Most cited references 61

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          Controlling the False Discovery Rate: A Practical and Powerful Approach to Multiple Testing

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            Predator interactions, mesopredator release and biodiversity conservation.

            There is growing recognition of the important roles played by predators in regulating ecosystems and sustaining biodiversity. Much attention has focused on the consequences of predator-regulation of herbivore populations, and associated trophic cascades. However apex predators may also control smaller 'mesopredators' through intraguild interactions. Removal of apex predators can result in changes to intraguild interactions and outbreaks of mesopredators ('mesopredator release'), leading in turn to increased predation on smaller prey. Here we provide a review and synthesis of studies of predator interactions, mesopredator release and their impacts on biodiversity. Mesopredator suppression by apex predators is widespread geographically and taxonomically. Apex predators suppress mesopredators both by killing them, or instilling fear, which motivates changes in behaviour and habitat use that limit mesopredator distribution and abundance. Changes in the abundance of apex predators may have disproportionate (up to fourfold) effects on mesopredator abundance. Outcomes of interactions between predators may however vary with resource availability, habitat complexity and the complexity of predator communities. There is potential for the restoration of apex predators to have benefits for biodiversity conservation through moderation of the impacts of mesopredators on their prey, but this requires a whole-ecosystem view to avoid unforeseen negative effects. 'Nothing has changed since I began. My eye has permitted no change. I am going to keep things like this.' From 'Hawk Roosting', by Ted Hughes.
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              Evolution on ecological time-scales

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Animals (Basel)
                Animals (Basel)
                animals
                Animals : an Open Access Journal from MDPI
                MDPI
                2076-2615
                04 October 2020
                October 2020
                : 10
                : 10
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Faculty of Tropical AgriSciences, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Kamýcká 129, 165 21 Prague, Czech Republic
                [2 ]Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution—Montpellier (ISEM), Univ Montpellier, CNRS, EPHE, IRD, 2 place Eugène Bataillon, CC065, CEDEX 5, 34095 Montpellier, France; allowen.evin@ 123456umontpellier.fr
                [3 ]Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, Viničná 7, 128 00 Prague, Czech Republic; knitlova@ 123456natur.cuni.cz (M.R.K.); miroslava.loudova@ 123456natur.cuni.cz (M.L.); hulva@ 123456natur.cuni.cz (P.H.)
                [4 ]Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Wilcza 64, 00-679 Warszawa, Poland; brysio@ 123456miiz.waw.pl (A.S.-J.); wieslawb@ 123456miiz.waw.pl (W.B.)
                [5 ]Faculty of Science, University of Ostrava, Chittussiho 10, 710 00 Ostrava, Czech Republic
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: bolfikova@ 123456ftz.czu.cz ; Tel.: +420-22438-2497
                [†]

                These authors contributed equally.

                Article
                animals-10-01803
                10.3390/ani10101803
                7650550
                33020407
                © 2020 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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