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Evolution. 2001 Dec;55(12):2523-33.

Body size variation among mainland populations of the western rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis).

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  • 1Department of Environmental, Population, and Organismic Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder 80309, USA.


In general, squamate reptiles follow the converse to Bergmann's rule, attaining smaller sizes in cooler environments, whereas other vertebrate groups follow Bergmann's rule, attaining larger sizes in cooler areas. Intensive studies of body size evolution for species of squamates are necessary to understand the processes responsible for this trend. Here I present data on body size variation among mainland populations of the western rattlesnake, Crotalus viridis. This species consists of two well-differentiated phylogenetic clades, therefore all analyses were performed for the C. viridis group as a whole and separately for each of the two clades within the C. viridis group. Although both phylogenetic and nonphylogenetic analyses were performed, the data did not show phylogenetic conservatism, and therefore the nonphylogenetic results are preferred. I found no significant relationships between mean adult female snout-vent length and any of the physical and climatic variables that were examined for the C. viridis group using simple linear regression analysis. Examined separately, I found that individuals of the western clade, C. oreganus, were smaller in cooler and more seasonal environments, whereas individuals of the eastern clade. C. viridis sensu stricto, were larger in cooler and more seasonal areas. Thus, the observed size trends were in opposite directions for the two clades. Multiple regression analysis revealed that seasonality was a stronger predictor of body size variation than was temperature for both clades. The differences in body size trends between these clades may be due to differences in mortality rates among populations.

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