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Volume 81, Issue 3 (May 2017)


Geographic morphometric and environmental differentiation of the water opossum, genus Chironectes Illiger, 1811 (Didelphimorphia: Didelphidae)

Rui Cerqueira
  • Laboratório de Vertebrados, Departamento de Ecologia, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Ilha do Fundão, CP 68020, Rio de Janeiro, 21941-590, RJ, Brazil
/ Marcelo M. Weber
  • Corresponding author
  • Laboratório de Vertebrados, Departamento de Ecologia, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Ilha do Fundão, CP 68020, Rio de Janeiro, 21941-590, RJ, Brazil
  • Email:
Published Online: 2016-05-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mammalia-2015-0109


We studied phenotypic variation in water opossum Chironectes minimus through morphological variation in size and shape of 16 cranial characters among six groups of populations of Chironectes defined by a transect analysis named according their main distributions: Central America, Venezuela/Colombia, Guianas, Belem, Bolivia/Peru, and Atlantic Forest. We also studied environmental variation among the groups and the influence of temperature seasonality and minimum temperature of coldest month on the body size of C. minimus. Morphometric differences in both size and shape were sharp between two major groups: Atlantic Forest and Central America+Venezuela/Colombia+Belem. The same pattern of differentiation was also observed in the environmental variables each group experiences. We also found a negative relationship between body size and temperature seasonality which showed that C. minimus follows a converse Bergmann’s rule cline. Our results on morphometric and environmental space suggest that specimens from the Atlantic Forest are different from specimens from Central America+Venezuela/Colombia+Belem both in size and shape and environmentally. We suggest that these major groups may comprehend different clades but a proper taxonomic assessment is needed to confirm our hypothesis.

This article offers supplementary material which is provided at the end of the article.

Keywords: Bergmann’s rule; Chironectes minimus; environmental space; morphometric space; skull morphology


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About the article

Received: 2015-06-24

Accepted: 2016-04-19

Published Online: 2016-05-27

Published in Print: 2017-05-01

Citation Information: Mammalia, ISSN (Online) 1864-1547, ISSN (Print) 0025-1461, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mammalia-2015-0109. Export Citation

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