Geometric morphometrics was applied to the mandible of fossorial water voles (Arvicola terrestris monticola) to determine size and shape variations in this structure during post-weaning ontogeny. The sample consisted of collection specimens obtained in the Aran Valley (Spain), which were grouped into six age classes. Mandible size and shape did not differ significantly between sexes, but between age classes. Mandible size accounted significantly for the shape variation. After the size-related differences were removed, the mandible shape did not show significant sexual dimorphism but differences by age remained significant. The main shape changes occur between the third and tenth weeks of life and are related to the shift from suckling to a herbivorous diet. Although mandible shape was less remodelled after that age, an appreciable variation also occurs during adulthood. Age-related changes lead to enhancing the digging potential of the mandible, which in adults becomes a robust structure with an increased surface and stronger crests for muscle insertion. As part of the mandible shape variation was not related to the size-dependent adjustment and diet does not vary significantly between juvenile and adult voles, shape changes that occur during adulthood can be related to the mechanical stress derived from digging activities. © 2010 The Authors. Acta Zoologica © 2010 The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
- Arvicola terrestris monticola
- Fossorial water voles
- Geometric morphometrics