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Geographical and temporal body size variation in a reptile: roles of sex, ecology, phylogeny and ecology structured in phylogeny.
Geographical body size variation has long interested evolutionary biologists, and a range of mechanisms have been proposed to explain the observed patterns. It is considered to be more puzzling in ectotherms than in endotherms, and integrative approaches are necessary for testing non-exclusive alternative mechanisms. Using lacertid lizards as a model, we adopted an integrative approach, testing different hypotheses for both sexes while incorporating temporal, spatial, and phylogenetic autocorrelation at the individual level. We used data on the Spanish Sand Racer species group from a field survey to disentangle different sources of body size variation through environmental and individual genetic data, while accounting for temporal and spatial autocorrelation. A variation partitioning method was applied to separate independent and shared components of ecology and phylogeny, and estimated their significance. Then, we fed-back our models by controlling for relevant independent components. The pattern was consistent with the geographical Bergmann's cline and the experimental temperature-size rule: adults were larger at lower temperatures (and/or higher elevations). This result was confirmed with additional multi-year independent data-set derived from the literature. Variation partitioning showed no sex differences in phylogenetic inertia but showed sex differences in the independent component of ecology; primarily due to growth differences. Interestingly, only after controlling for independent components did primary productivity also emerge as an important predictor explaining size variation in both sexes. This study highlights the importance of integrating individual-based genetic information, relevant ecological parameters, and temporal and spatial autocorrelation in sex-specific models to detect potentially important hidden effects. Our individual-based approach devoted to extract and control for independent components was useful to reveal hidden effects linked with alternative non-exclusive hypothesis, such as those of primary productivity. Also, including measurement date allowed disentangling and controlling for short-term temporal autocorrelation reflecting sex-specific growth plasticity.
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