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Temporal and geographical variation in skull size of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and the Eurasian badger (Meles meles) in Austria

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Abstract

Using museum material, we studied temporal changes in skull size of 185 red foxes (Vulpes vulpes Linnaeus, 1758) and 71 Eurasian badgers (Meles meles Linnaeus, 1758) collected in Austria between 1866 and 2007. Four measurements were taken and combined into principal components by means of a principal components analysis. Akaike's information criterion models indicated that skull size of the red fox and the Eurasian badger is positively related to the year of collection and negatively to altitude but not to latitude or longitude. However, for the Eurasian badger, the relationship between skull size and year is only on the verge of significance. We suggest that the increase in skull size with year is a result of improved food availability during the 20th Century from man-made resources such as agricultural produce and garbage, and the decrease in skull size with altitude is possibly the result of a parallel decrease in primary productivity. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, ●●, ●●–●●.

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