Comparison of Vulpes lagopus and Vulpes vulpes Skulls from Sympatric and Allopatric Populations



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Vulpes vulpes, the red fox, and Vulpes lagopus, the arctic fox, have tumultuous taxonomic histories. V. vulpes boasts cosmopolitan distribution, in part due to artificial introduction. In all areas, its specialization as a generalist allows it to adapt and thrive. The origins of the North American populations were contested. While recent studies proved the species is a long-term native, the valid name for these foxes is still under discussion. V. lagopus recently settled into Vulpes – previously, this derived fox resided in its own genus. While DNA indicates V. lagopus belongs in Vulpes, the phenotypes of reds and arctics are strikingly different. However, in parts of Alaska, these two species live sympatrically, in competition. V. vulpes tends to usurp V. lagopus. A recent study of tooth morphology revealed greater conservation of dental form in red foxes sharing their ranges with arctics, while another study established general trends in each species’ skull dimensions. This study compares the skull shape of both species in sympatric and allopatric populations using 2D morphometrics, focusing on four regions of the skull. I investigate whether or not V. vulpes is stabilizing its skull shape in sympatric populations, and if this form is suited to a particular diet.



evolution, macroevolution, development, morphometrics, canids, foxes, vulpes vulpes, vulpes lagopus, skull morphology