Fossils of Cryptotis goodwini from Honduras indicate that body sizes of modern individuals average at least 18% larger than among members of the late Pleistocene population of this species. Palynological and other paleoenvironmental studies provide evidence that the Neotropical montane environments that these shrews inhabit were cooler and drier in the late Pleistocene than at present and supported communities of plants without modern analog. Therefore, the most likely cause of this change in size ultimately was related to climatic change at the end of the Pleistocene?but to what specific factors did the species respond? I examined the possibilities that this species changed in size: to accommodate a change in temperature regime; to escape from predators; as a response to a change in intensity of interspecific competition; to take advantage of a newly abundant food resource. Based on evidence from studies of modern communities of shrews and niche partitioning, I hypothesized that size evolution in C. goodwini was directly related to changes in the community of soil and soil-surface invertebrates upon which the species depends, specifically an increase in the availability of earthworms (Annelida).
Additional publication details
Size evolution in Goodwin’s small-eared shrew, Cryptotis goodwini
International Society of Shrew Biologists: Special publication of the International Society of Shrew Biologists