Are there sex differences in the body size of the Eurasian red squirrel in Slovakia?

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Abstract

Sexual dimorphism of the Eurasian red squirrel on five somatic variables (head-and-body length, tail length, hind foot length, ear length and body weight) was evaluated on 55 squirrels. The overlap of values of the measured traits among sexes was high, but in all traits (with exception of the tail length) males seem to exhibit slightly higher mean values than females. However, these differences were non-significant, with the exception of a small significant difference in the tail length and tail-to-head-and-body ratio. Similarly, the results of discriminant function analysis show no differences between the sexes. Positive correlation analyses, together with PCA values, confirmed that tail length and hind foot length are traits that play a significant role in overall variability. We suggest that this relationship could explain their mutual importance in locomotion, where the feet are essential for movement in the trees. By contrast, the tail maintains balance on thin branches, or during jumps from one crown to another. Longer tails also demonstrate differential selection on males and females for a locomotor trait. Similarly, we discuss whether variations in tail length were connected to female reproductive success. Our results suggest that the non-significant results regarding SSD provide the benefit of the same size for both sexes in the protection of territory as well as inter- and intra-sexual interaction.

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