Searching for indicators of age, sex and population in European mouflon mandibles
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Departamento de Biología Animal, Vegetal y Ecología, Área de Zoología, Universidad de Jaén, Spain
Dept. CMIM y Química Inorgánica-INBIO, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Cádiz, Spain
Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, University of Barcelona, Spain
Dept. of Statistics and Operational Research, University of Jaén, Spain.
Departamento de Zoologia, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Concepción Azorit   

Departamento de Biología Animal, Vegetal y Ecología, Área de Zoología, Universidad de Jaén, Spain.
Online publication date: 2020-06-04
Publication date: 2020-06-04
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2020;31(1):48–57
Mandibles from separate populations of free-living mouflons (Ovis aries musimon) from Southern Spain, submitted to different ecological conditions, were studied. Searching for ontogenetic shape variations we used geometric morphometrics tools and we explored the use of several mathematical models for describing growth rate variations between populations and sexes. A strong allometry was detected with variations in shape mainly matching with molar and premolar eruption. Mandible shape did not vary significantly with sex nor was sexual size dimorphism detected in adults, whatever the population. By modeling growth we detected differences between populations in all parameters such as the maturity rate describing precocity, and the time it took to reach asymptotic size (varying from 9 up to 18 months). A longer period of growth did not result in a larger asymptotic size, but it led to smaller mandibles. Mouflons with relatively late teeth replacement, lower maturation rate and smaller adult size were those of the population submitted to extreme environmental conditions, like epizootic disease, droughts and ungulate overpopulations. We discuss how a delay in reaching mature size has probably an important subsequent impact on reproductive and life-history traits in this species. Being able to record the effects of density-dependent and density-independent factors, mandibles become a target of interest for ecological and management studies also on mouflons.
We thank the hunters, taxidermists and local wildlife management authorities for supplying the material and for their assistance in the collection of specimens. Finally, we warmly thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers who worked deeply on our manuscript, allow us to improve it with their constructive comments and suggestions.
This study was supported by the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER), projects P07-RNM- 03087 (Consejería de Ciencia e Innovación, Junta de Andalucía) and Project CGL2016-78577-P (from the MINECO of Spain) as well as the Prociência Fellowship Program/UERJ, CAPES and CNPq, O. Rocha-Barbosa, (Brazil).