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Keywords:

  • animal husbandry;
  • Bergmann’s rule;
  • commensal animals;
  • food availability

The body size of animals is affected by several factors, including ambient temperature and food availability. Ambient temperature is often negatively related to body size (Bergmann’s rule) whereas an improved diet, especially during growth, has a positive effect. Animals commensal with man commonly exploit additional food sources (e.g. garbage dumps), thereby increasing their food supply. Using museum material, we studied morphological variation in skull size (and thus body size) among Spanish red foxes. Four measurements were taken of each skull and were related to the habitat from which the foxes were collected (agricultural and non-agricultural), and to latitude as a proxy for ambient temperature. The skull size of foxes collected in agricultural areas during the late 20th Century was significantly larger than that of those from non-agricultural areas, and was negatively related to latitude, thus contradicting Bergmann’s rule. We suggest that increased food availability from animal husbandry is the cause for the observed increase in skull size (and thus body size). © 2007 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2007, 90, 729–734.