Different ecological preferences among species may result in differences in response to similar environmental variation. To test this hypothesis, we assessed the patterns of skull and mandible size and shape variation in three Sigmodontinae mice from agroecosystems of central Argentina with increasing degree of specialization: Calomys musculinus, Akodon azarae and Oxymycterus rufus. Spatial patterns in size and shape were analysed after controlling for allometry and sexual dimorphism using a total of 697 specimens. We then evaluated the covariation between shape, climatic and environmental variables and assessed the contribution of distinct climatic and environmental variables to phenotypic variability. Oxymycterus rufus displayed a marked spatial structure, and there was a high correlation between shape, climatic and environmental variables in this species. Climatic and environmental variables had a moderate effect on the phenotype of A. azarae, and were not correlated with morphological variation in C. musculinus. Our study highlights the difference in phenotypic responses to spatial and environmental gradients across coexisting species, specialist species displaying a more marked spatial structure in morphology than generalist species. © 2014 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2014, 112, 180–203.