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Cranial morphology of the California vole (Microtus californicus, Cricetidae) in a contact zone



Zones of contact between divergent biological forms within or between species are critical to the study of speciation. How characters flow across contact zones can be informative of the speciation process. To better understand this phenomenon in a mammal, we investigated cranial shape change in a contact zone between northern and southern phylogeographical groups of California voles (Microtus californicus). We took 12 linear measurements of skulls, one measurement of the mandible, and coded the presence and absence of two skull foramina for 427 specimens. In multivariate analyses, skulls within parental regions were correctly assigned more than 90% of the time. In the contact zone, 49% were classified as northern and 51% as southern, with a bimodal distribution of posterior probability values. Foraminal patterns in the contact zone were intermediate between northern and southern regions. A cline analysis for coastal populations suggested a similar centre for mitochondrial and nuclear markers, although a centre for the morphological data was offset. Cranial morphology indicates an intermediate area with overlap between the two regions, as suggested by the molecular data, with a pattern distinct from mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA markers. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 104, 264–283.