Recent increase in body size of the American marten Martes americana in Alaska

Authors


E-mail: yomtov@post.tau.ac.il

Abstract

Using museum specimens, we studied recent changes in skull size of the American marten Martes americana, in continental Alaska. In Alaska, global warming has resulted in milder winters that may contribute to an improved food supply in the wild. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that body size of the marten had increased during the second half of the 20th century, in response to global warming. We found that skull size, and by implication body size, increased significantly during the second half of the 20th century, possibly due to an improved food supply and/or lower metabolic demands in winter. Improved food availability in winter may result from the improved nutritional conditions for prey, and/or from increased access to prey resulting from a longer snow-free season. Longitude had a significant positive effect on skull size and a significant negative effect on teeth size. In Alaska, the climate is milder along the western coast and becomes harsher inland. Hence, the milder climate was associated with larger body size providing further support for our prediction that body size of the American marten was influenced by food availability and reduced energy expenditure. The negative relationship between longitude and teeth size may indicate a trend towards a larger prey in inland marten populations, but we have no data to support or refute this hypothesis. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 93, 701–707.

Ancillary