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The Effect of Environmental Factors on the Morphological Variation of the Common Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus in China

PJZ_53_2_675-684

The Effect of Environmental Factors on the Morphological Variation of the Common Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus in China

Fangqing Liu1, Jared Atlas2, Chaohao Du1, Anoop Das3 and Longying Wen1*

1Key Laboratory of Sichuan Institute for Protecting Endangered Birds in the Southwest Mountains, College of Life Sciences, Leshan Normal University, Leshan, Sichuan, 614004, China

2Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2WI, Canada

3Centre for Conservation Ecology, Department of Zoology, M.E.S Mampad College, Malappuram, Kerala, India, 676 542.

ABSTRACT

This study aims to assess morphological variation of the ring-necked or common pheasant Phasianus colchicus across mainland China in response to environmental factors. We collected 399 pheasant and divided them into two groups: high altitude (>1500m) and low altitude (<1500m). The results that all morphological size measures of males were significantly higher than those of females (P<0.05). Most measures of size at low altitude significantly greater than those at high altitudes, including body weight, body length, and wing length for males (P<0.05), and body weight and wing length for females. The results showed that males and females are different in response to environmental factors. The body weight, wing length, tarsus, skull length and interorbital distance in females were significantly correlated with atmospheric pressure (P<0.05), along with body weight, body length, rictus, wing length, tarsus and skull length in males (P<0.05). A significant positive correlation was observed between wing length of males and wind speed (P=0.017). Conversely, body weight, body length, wing length and tail length in males were significantly negatively correlated with air temperature (P<0.05). Many measures of body size (wing length and tail length for males; tail length for females) increased with latitude after controlling for altitude, indicating that the body size of this species, especially in males, is significantly larger at high latitudes. It is the common pheasant’s adaptability to considerable environmental change that has facilitated the vast distribution of this species.


Article Information

Received 04 January 2018

Revised 13 May 2019

Accepted 03 September 2019

Available online 26 February 2021

Authors’ Contribution

LW and FL conceived and designed the study. FL and LW performed the experiments. JA, CD and AD provided the help in experimental work. FL wrote the paper.

Key words

Phasianus colchicus, Ring-necked or Common pheasant, Altitude, Morphological variation, Environmental factor

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.17582/journal.pjz/20180104100143

* Corresponding author: lywen02@126.com

0030-9923/2021/0002-0675 $ 9.00/0

Copyright 2021 Zoological Society of Pakistan



INTRODUCTION

Geographic variation in morphology is a common occurrence in species of birds, and widespread patterns are often explained within an adaptive framework (Healy and Price, 2008). Intraspecific geographic variation in body size is assumed to reflect adaptation to local environmental conditions, such as altitude, latitude and ambient temperature (Millien et al., 2006; Yom-Tov and Geffen, 2011; Sun et al., 2017). Altitudinal variation in body size has been well-documented (Blackburn et al., 2001; Bulgarella et al., 2007; Sun et al., 2017). For instance, animals inhabiting higher altitudes generally have higher energy demands for cold surroundings (Storz, 2007; Storz et al., 2010). The body size is significantly negative correlated with altitude (P<0.01) in tree sparrow (Lan et al., 2018). Although latitudinal and altitudinal gradients show similar trends in temperature decline (Ashton and Feldman, 2003), some climate factors, such as solar radiation and lower temperatures, are often accompanied by decreased atmospheric pressure and constant, strong wind. Thus, these climatic components are more strongly associated with variation in altitude than latitude (Liao et al., 2006, 2010; Körner, 2007). Similarly, limited oxygen availability may decrease digestive efficiency, thus eliciting a negative effect on body size; the mechanism of which has been demonstrated in geographic size variation in some lizards and mammals (Liao et al., 2006; Jin et al., 2007). Previous studies have demonstrated a positive relationship between body size and latitude in some species of birds and mammals (Ashton, 2002; Meiri and Dayan, 2003; Gardner et al., 2009; Olson et al., 2009). Associated morphological adaptations in birds and mammals are known to include variations related to body size (Blackburn et al., 1999; Blackburn and Ruggiero, 2001).

The common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) belongs to the genus Phasianus of the family Phasianidae, under the order Galliformes. A significant degree of sexual dimorphism exists in this species, which ranges across most of China (Zheng, 2011). Therefore, it is an ideal species to understand morphological variation in different geographical locations. The study of this species has largely been focused on phylogeography (Qu et al., 2009; Liu et al., 2010; Zhang et al., 2014), distribution of subspecies (Braasch et al., 2011), physiology and biochemistry (dos Santos Schmidt et al., 2007; Kececi et al., 2011), heavy metal accumulation in tissues (Dzugan et al., 2012), as well as breeding ecology (Musil et al., 2009; Kayvanfar et al., 2014). However, the morphological variation of this species in response and adaptation to environmental factors is unknown. In this study, we collected 399 samples both from male and female common pheasants, across differing altitudinal and samples sites distributions in mainland China. Our objectives are to determine: 1) the difference in response to environmental effects between male and female conspecifics; 2) whether there is significant difference in morphology along the altitudinal gradient; and 3) the environmental factors which significantly affect the morphological size, by analyzing the relationship between size and environmental factors.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

A total of 399 individuals were obtained from: the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS); the Kunming Institute of Zoology, CAS; the South China Institute for Endangered Animals; or collected from the wild. We used a Vernier caliper (0.1mm) to measure the morphological size of males and females, including: body length, tail length, culmen, rictus, wing length, tarsus, skull length, skull width, interorbital distance and so forth. Body mass was measured by an electric balance (0.1g). The sample sites were situated from 76.17°E - 129.17°E and 18.53°N - 52.97°N, while the region’s altitude spanned from 2m - 4472m (Tables I, II). Two populations were devised from the sample sites according to altitude: a high altitude population (>1500m) and a low altitude population (<1500m). The high altitude population consisted of 130 males and 65 females, while 136 males and 68 females comprised the low altitude population. We analyzed the correlation between environmental factors and morphological size of both males and females using the principal component analysis method, respectively. Twenty one environmental factors included: longitude, latitude, altitude, extreme minimum atmospheric pressure, extreme maximum atmospheric pressure, average atmospheric pressure, extreme minimum wind speed, average wind speed, extreme maximum wind speed, extreme maximum air temperature, extreme minimum air temperature, average air temperature, average maximum temperature, average minimum temperature, precipitation, average vapour pressure, average relative humidity, daily precipitation, maximum daily precipitation, sunshine duration, and percentage of sunshine. All the meteorological data was obtained from national meteorological data center of China. We used the independent sample T-test method, and analysis of the morphological differences between males and females, and high altitude and low altitude populations for male and female, respectively. All data were analyzed in SPSS 20.0 software.

 

RESULTS

Sexual size dimorphism

The results of the independent sample T-test illustrated that all the morphological size measures of males were significantly greater than those of females (P<0.05) (Table III).

Relationship with environmental factors

From principal component analysis, four principal components were obtained: PC1 (-0.966) (atmospheric pressure factor), PC2 (0.927) (precipitation factor), PC3 (0.916) (air temperature factor), and PC4 (0.887) (wind speed factor). The four principal components can explain 92% of the total variance in 21 environmental factors analyzed. Based on analysis of environmental factors and morphological characteristics, the results indicated that body weight, wing length, tarsus, skull length and interorbital distance had significant positive correlations with the atmospheric pressure factor in females (P<0.05). There was no significant correlation observed between any measure of morphological size and the wind speed factor neither in females, nor for female morphological size and the precipitation factor (P>0.05) (Table IV). Following the analysis of environmental components and morphological traits in males, the results illustrated that body weight, body length, rictus, wing length, tarsus and skull length had a significant positive correlation with the atmospheric pressure factor (P<0.05). Conversely, body weight, body length, wing length and tail length had significant negative correlations with the air temperature factor (P<0.05). Additionally, a significant positive correlation between wing length and the wind speed factor was revealed, while no significant correlation was observed between any morphological size measure and the precipitation factor for males (P>0.05) (Table IV).

 

Table I. Sampling sites of males of Phasianus colchicus.

Sites

Gender

Date

Sampling size

Longitude

Latitude

Altitude

(m)

Wuhu, Anhui

1908

1

118.43

31.35

11

Yuexi, Anhui

2013

8

116.36

30.85

694

Beijing

1932/1

966/

1980

/1954

/1965

8

116.41

39.90

48

Dangchang, Gansu

2013

2

104.39

34.05

2350

Minqin, Gansu

2013

6

102.99

38.58

1384

Minxian, Gansu

2013

9

104.04

34.44

2428

Pingliang, Gansu

2013

9

106.65

35.22

1580

Wuwei, Gansu

2013

6

102.64

37.93

1537

Zhangxian, Gansu

2013

5

104.47

34.85

2034

Lianyang, Guangdong

1959

3

111.18

23.72

372

Shaoguan,Guangdong

2013

2

113.04

24.69

722

Anshun, Guizhong

-

1

105.89

25.99

1398

Tongren, Guizhong

-

2

109.05

25.83

425

Chengde, Hebei

1927/

1932/

1960

9

117.91

40.95

338

Dongling, Hebei

1929/

1930/

1935

14

117.66

40.18

108

Harbin, Heilongjiang

1922/

1952/

1960

4

129.21

48.24

370

Jishou, Hunan

-

2

109.70

28.26

378

Yizhang, Hunan

1955/

1956

5

113.02

28.21

38

Xianghai, Jilin

2013

2

122.35

45.03

162

Nanjing, Jiangsu

1960/

1929

3

120.44

32.07

4

Nanchang, Jiangxi

1960

1

115.86

28.68

21

Aohan Banner, Inner Mongolia

2013

8

120.39

42.13

601

Haggin Banner, Inner Mongolia

2013

5

108.74

39.83

1394

Wuhai, Inner Mongolia

1960

9

106.80

39.66

1093

Jingyuan, Ningxia

2013

3

106.33

35.50

1935

Longde, Ningxia

2013

15

106.11

35.63

2106

Guide, Qinghai

2013

6

101.43

36.04

2301

Huzhu, Qinghai

2013

7

101.96

36.84

2762

Menyuan, Qinghai

1960

6

101.62

37.36

3435

Sites

Gender

Date

Sampling size

Longitude

Latitude

Altitude

(m)

Minhe, Qinghai

1959

1

102.78

36.12

2277

Woodhong, Qinghai

1959/

2013

4

96.44

36.38

2857

Tongren, Qinghai

1960/

2013

9

102.02

35.52

2549

Golmud, Qinghai

2013

6

93.16

36.91

2875

Xining, Qinghai

1959

8

101.78

36.62

2270

Zeku, Qinghai

1960

2

101.79

35.20

3473

Zequ, Qinghai

2013

1

101.47

35.04

3662

Qixia, Shandong

1964

8

121.07

37.19

216

Lishi, Shanxi

1964/

2013

2

111.15

37.52

942

Qinshui, Shanxi

1960/

1962

4

112.19

35.69

856

Taiyuan, Shanxi

2013

1

112.33

37.47

778

Yicheng, Shanxi

1962

/2013

5

111.72

35.74

623

Foping, Shaanxi

1957/

2013

2

107.99

33.52

1008

Ningshan, Shaanxi

2013

1

108.30

33.65

1611

Xi’an, Shaanxi

1957

5

108.94

34.34

383

Yangxian, Shaanxi

1957

2

107.55

33.22

482

Shanghai

1957

2

121.55

31.22

7

Hongyuan, Sichuan

1961

1

102.46

32.51

3612

Huidong, Sichuan

1960

2

102.58

26.63

2135

Meigu, Sichuan

1960

1

103.13

28.60

2255

Muli, Sichuan

-

1

101.28

27.93

3461

Pingwu, Sichuan

1969

2

104.53

32.41

1209

Ruoergai, Sichuan

-

1

102.96

33.58

3490

Mangkang, Tibet

1976

2

98.59

29.68

4283

Aksu, Xinjiang

1958

1

80.26

41.17

1108

Yuli, Xinjiang

-

1

86.25

41.36

931

Baoshan, Yunnan

-

2

98.49

25.02

1810

Dali, Yunnan

-

1

100.58

25.83

1651

Honghe, Yunnan

-

3

103.36

23.40

1310

Kunming, Yunnan

1962

5

102.61

25.06

2166

Lijiang, Yunnan

1960

5

100.23

26.86

2405

Luxi, Yunnan

1965

2

98.59

24.45

907

Simao, Yunnan

-

1

100.83

24.45

1337

Yuxi, Yunnan

-

1

102.41

24.17

1642

Zhaotong, Yunnan

-

5

103.72

27.34

1921

Zhongdian, Yunnan

1981/

1959

3

103.23

25.23

1799

Haiyan, Zhejiang

1925

2

120.95

30.53

5

 

Table II. Sampling sites of females of Phasianus colchicus.

Sites

Gender

Date

Sampling size

Longitude

Latitude

Altitude

(m)

Yuexi, Anhui

2013

8

116.36

30.85

694

Beijing

1965/

1966

4

116.41

39.90

48

Dangchang, Gansu

2013

4

104.39

34.05

2350

Minqin, Gansu

2013

5

102.99

38.58

1384

Minxian, Gansu

2013

4

104.04

34.44

2428

Pingliang, Gansu

2013

3

106.65

35.22

1580

Wuwei, Gansu

2013

4

102.64

37.93

1537

Zhangxian, Gansu

2013

5

104.47

34.85

2034

Lianyang, Guangdong

1959

2

111.18

23.72

372

Shaoguan,Guangdong

2013

4

113.04

24.69

722

Anshun, Guizhong

-

1

105.89

25.99

1398

Qianxi, Guizhou

-

1

104.90

25.09

1353

Chengde, Hebei

1960/

1974

2

117.91

40.95

338

Dongling, Hebei

1935

4

117.66

40.18

108

Harbin, Heilongjiang

1960

2

129.21

48.24

370

Yichang, Hunan

1959

1

113.02

28.21

38

Xianghai, Jilin

2013

3

122.35

45.03

162

Nanchang, Jiangxi

1960

1

115.86

28.68

21

Aohan Banner, Inner Mongolia

2013

8

120.39

42.13

601

Haggin Banner, Inner Mongolia

2013

5

108.74

39.83

1394

Wuhai, Inner Mongolia

1963/

1964

3

106.80

39.66

1093

Longde, Ningxia

2013

14

106.11

35.63

2106

Guide, Qinghai

2013

6

101.43

36.04

2301

Guinan, Qinghai

1959

2

100.75

35.58

3412

Menyuan, Qinghai

1959

1

101.62

37.36

3435

Tongren, Qinghai

1960

3

102.02

35.52

2549

Xining,Qinghai

1959

4

101.78

36.62

2270

Qixia, Shandong

1964

1

121.07

37.19

216

Qinshui, Shanxi

1962

1

112.19

35.69

856

Yicheng, Shanxi

1962

2

111.72

35.74

623

Foping, Shaanxi

1957

1

107.99

33.52

1008

Sites

Gender

Date

Sampling size

Longitude

Latitude

Altitude

(m)

Xi’an, Shaanxi

1957

2

108.94

34.34

383

Yangxian, Shanxi

1957

1

107.55

33.22

482

Batang, Sichuan

1960

1

99.11

30.00

4687

Hongyuan, Sichuan

1961

2

102.46

32.51

3612

Muli, Sichuan

1959

2

101.28

27.93

3461

Pingwu, Sichuan

1969

1

104.53

32.41

1209

Wanyuan, Sichuan

1958

1

108.03

32.08

1033

Mangkang, Tibet

1976

1

98.59

29.68

4283

Aksu, Xinjiang

1958

1

80.26

41.17

1108

Kunming, Yunnan

1962

3

102.61

25.06

2166

Lijiang, Yunnan

1960

2

100.23

26.86

2405

Yuxi, Yunnan

-

2

102.41

24.17

1642

Zhaotong, Yunnan

-

1

103.72

27.34

1921

Zhongdian, Yunnan

-

1

103.23

25.23

1799

Haiyan, Zhejiang

1925

3

120.95

30.53

5

 

Table III. Sexual size dimorphism in common pheasant, Phasianus colchicus.

Male

Female

t

df

P

Bodyweight

1050.42±

33.12

804.47±

33.54

5.146

87

<0.001

Body length

76.75±1.14

53.72±0.99

15.250

107

<0.001

Culmen

3.29±0.04

2.84±0.05

7.145

108

<0.001

Rictus

3.29±0.02

2.91±0.02

10.969

102

<0.001

Wing length

23.84±0.50

20.67±0.19

5.069

108

<0.001

Tail length

44.02±1.04

25.76±0.64

14.939

93.856

<0.001

Tarsus

6.34±0.12

5.72±0.08

3.904

109

<0.001

Claw

1.24±0.02

1.07±0.02

5.749

81

<0.001

Skull length

4.06±0.04

3.64±0.05

6.364

81

<0.001

Skull width

2.78±0.04

2.59±0.04

3.578

81

<0.001

Interorbital distance

2.37±0.04

2.00±0.04

5.912

81

<0.001

Wing-spans

71.71±1.13

64.45±1.02

4.763

20

<0.001

Toe length

4.92±0.15

4.35±0.13

2.802

20

0.011

 

Note: Bold font represents a statistically significant size difference between male and female pheasants at the significance level of 0.001

 

Furthermore, we analyzed the relationship between morphological size and latitude after controlling for altitude, as well as the relationship between morphological size and altitude after controlling for latitude. The results showed that female tail length had a significant positive correlation with latitude when controlling for altitude (P<0.05), while female body weight and skull length had significant negative correlation with altitude when controlling

 

Table IV. The correlation of principal environmental factors with morphology of Phasianus colchicus of male and female.

Statistical

Body

Body length

Culmen

Rictus

Wing length

Tail length

Tarsus

Skull length

Skull width

Interorbital

parameters

weight

distance

Fe ma le

PC1

r

0.515

0.222

-0.156

0.067

0.324

0.135

0.367

0.451

-0.047

0.341

df

37

46

46

46

46

45

46

34

34

34

P

0.001

0.138

0.301

0.656

0.028

0.377

0.012

0.007

0.792

0.048

PC2

r

-0.026

-0.160

0.231

-0.127

-0.034

-0.228

0.174

0.014

-0.274

0.128

df

37

46

46

46

46

45

46

34

34

34

P

0.878

0.289

0.122

0.400

0.824

0.132

0.247

0.939

0.116

0.472

PC3

r

0.299

-0.167

0.024

-0.107

-0.184

-0.479

0.042

-0.161

0.089

-0.314

df

37

46

46

46

46

45

46

34

34

34

P

0.072

0.269

0.877

0.479

0.221

<0.001

0.781

0.362

0.616

0.070

PC4

r

0.202

0.109

0.079

-0.027

0.081

-0.066

0.152

-0.216

0.082

-0.023

df

37

46

46

46

46

45

46

34

34

34

P

0.231

0.471

0.6002

0.859

0.591

0.669

0.312

0.219

0.643

0.895

Ma le

PC1

r

0.395

0.260

0.033

0.259

0.293

0.215

0.598

0.407

0.129

0.136

df

49

64

65

59

64

60

65

49

49

49

P

0.005

0.038

0.797

0.048

0.019

0.098

<0.001

0.004

0.376

0.350

PC2

r

0.123

-0.001

0.141

-0.197

-0.129

-0.046

0.008

0.253

0.164

-0.038

df

49

64

65

59

64

60

65

49

49

49

P

0.399

0.991

0.262

0.134

0.309

0.729

0.949

0.080

0.260

0.798

PC3

r

-0.437

-0.407

0.196

-0.252

-0.256

-0.500

-0.177

-0.039

-0.110

-0.163

df

49

64

65

59

64

60

65

49

49

49

P

0.002

<0.001

0.117

0.055

0.041

<0.001

0.159

0.791

0.454

0.263

PC4

r

0.098

-0.047

0.042

-0.073

0.297

-0.100

0.027

-0.059

-0.134

0.029

df

49

64

65

59

64

60

65

49

49

49

P

0.503

0.71

0.7409

0.582

0.017

0.449

0.833

0.686

0.359

0.845

 

Note: PC1: atmospheric pressure factor; PC2: precipitation factor; PC3: air temperature factor; PC4: wind speed factor. Bold font represents a statistically significant correlation between the environmental factor and the size of the trait measured, at the significance level of 0.05.

 

for latitude (P<0.05) (Table V). Our analysis also showed that male body weight, rictus, wing length and tail length had significant positive correlations with latitude when controlling for altitude (P<0.05). Conversely, male tarsus and skull length had significant negative correlations with altitude when controlling for latitude (P<0.05) (Table V).

Variation of morphology with altitude

The results indicated that most measures of morphological size at low altitude sites were significantly greater than those at high altitude sites, including body weight, body length, culmen, rictus, wing length, tarsus, and skull length for males (P<0.05), as well as body weight, wing length, tarsus, and skull length for females (Fig. 1, Table VI).

 

DISCUSSION

Sexual selection is one of the evolutionary motive forces, and the selection pressures affecting mating opportunities and mating competitiveness have led to sexual dimorphism in animals (Williams, 1992; Andersson, 1994). Our study indicates that body size is greater in males than females. It is common that pheasant family exhibits significant sexual dimorphism. It also performs a feature that male body size is greater than female. The morphology size is the weapons or reliable signals of male quality directed both to females and rivals in pheasants (Mateos, 1998). The superior body condition of males ensures better offspring viability in birds, such as barn swallow Hirundo rustica (Møller, 1994; Petrie, 1994; Sheldon et al., 1997). Therefore, we believe that this characteristic is

 

Table V. The partial correlation analysis of altitude and latitude with morphology of Phasianus colchicus of male and female.

Control variable

Variable

Body weight

Body length

Culmen

Rictus

Wing length

Tail length

Tarsus

Skull length

Skull width

Intero rbitald istance

Altitude (F)

r

-0.04

0.3

-0.291

-0.157

0.212

0.638

-0.05

0.219

0.082

0.193

Latitude

df

23

23

23

23

23

23

23

23

23

23

P

0.85

0.145

0.159

0.455

0.308

0.001

0.811

0.293

0.696

0.356

Latitude (F)

r

-0.546

0.111

-0.028

-0.256

-0.142

0.248

-0.295

-0.435

-0.076

-0.241

Altitude

df

23

23

23

23

23

23

23

23

23

23

P

0.005

0.599

0.893

0.216

0.497

0.232

0.153

0.03

0.718

0.246

Altitude (M)

r

0.339

0.212

-0.089

0.528

0.44

0.336

0.286

-0.109

-0.123

0.189

Latitude

df

37

37

37

37

37

37

37

37

37

37

P

0.035

0.196

0.59

0.001

0.005

0.037

0.078

0.51

0.457

0.248

Latitude (M)

r

-0.216

-0.177

-0.274

-0.274

-0.27

0.012

-0.649

-0.481

-0.195

-0.136

Altitude

df

37

37

37

37

37

37

37

37

37

37

P

0.187

0.282

0.091

0.092

0.096

0.943

<0.001

0.002

0.234

0.41

 

Note: Bold font indicates a significant correlation between altitude or latitude and the morphological measure in question, at the significance level of 0.05. F: female, M: male.

 

Table VI. Morphological variations between high and low altitude regions for male and female pheasants of Phasianus colchicus.

Body weight /g

Body length /cm

Culmen /cm

Rictus /cm

Wing length /cm

Tail length /cm

Tarsu s/cm

Skull length /cm

Skull width /cm

Interor bitaldi stance /cm

Fem ale

Low Altit-ude

824.90±

26.29

54.82±

0.74

2.91±

0.06

2.89±

0.05

21.18±

0.20

26.17±

0.45

5.94±

0.13

3.73±

0.07

2.60±

0.04

2.05±

0.05

High Altit-ude

692.79±

30.21

52.38±

.00

2.77±

0.09

2.88±

0.04

20.05±

0.30

26.02±

1.09

5.55±

0.12

3.50±

0.06

2.57±

0.06

1.92±

0.07

t

3.30

1.14

1.36

0.05

3.26

0.13

2.18

2.26

0.38

1.46

df

35.00

24.19

44.00

44.00

44.00

24.12

44.00

32.00

32.00

32.00

P

0.002

0.266

0.181

0.964

0.002

0.898

0.034

0.031

0.704

0.154

Male

Low Altit-ude

1094.63±

32.24

79.00±

1.54

3.39±

0.05

3.33±

0.04

23.71±

0.16

45.25±

1.28

6.66±

0.07

4.16±

0.05

2.81±

0.06

2.38±

0.05

High Altit ude

949.36±

36.62

74.36±

1.59

3.19±

0.05

3.23±

0.03

22.96±

0.17

42.42±

1.71

6.19±

0.11

3.93±

0.06

2.75±

0.05

2.35±

0.08

t

2.99

2.09

2.88

2.09

3.18

1.36

3.65

2.71

0.72

0.27

df

47.00

61.76

63.00

57.00

61.32

58.00

63.00

47.00

47.00

47.00

P

0.004

0.041

0.005

0.041

0.002

0.180

0.001

0.009

0.477

0.788

 

Note: Bold font indicates a statistically significant difference in size at the significance level of 0.05.

 

an important result of its wide distribution in evolutionary adaptation.

The most measures of morphological size are significantly greater at low altitudes than at high altitudes both for male and female common pheasants. Some researchers have shown that in the Galerida, body size does not increase with altitude in G. cristata (Alban et al., 2008). Also, Lu et al. (2009) reported two sympatric Montifringilla snow finch species (M. taczanowskii and M. ruficollis) in a higher altitude region, and compared the data with those of their lower altitude conspecifics. Their results indicated that relative to their lower altitude conspecifics, the higher altitude snow finches had smaller body sizes. Similarly, in some mammal species, such as the Daurian pika (Ochotona daurica), skull size is negatively correlated with altitude (Liao et al., 2006). The body size of avian fauna is affected by the availability of food and interspecific competition (Scholander, 1955; McNab, 1971).


Individual size is significantly positive correlated with the degree of primary productivity in any environment (Rosenzweig, 1968). Although latitudinal and altitudinal gradients show similar temperature decline trends (Ashton and Feldman, 2003), some climate factors such as solar radiation and lower temperatures, which are often accompanied by decreased atmospheric pressure and constant strong wind are more strongly associated with variation in altitude than latitude (Liao et al., 2006, 2010; Körner, 2007; Scholander, 1955; McNab, 1971). The body size patterns observed may be attributed to constraints on individual growth by climate severity, food scarcity and hypoxia at higher altitudes (Lu et al., 2009). The body size of avian could be affected on food available and interspecies competition (Scholander, 1955). The primary productivity is positively correlated with body size in any environments (McNab, 1971; Rosenzweig, 1968). The body size, such as body weight, wing length and tarsus, could be significantly smaller at higher altitude areas due to lower level of primary productivity and few air (P<0.01) (Lan et al., 2018). We argue that body size tends to decrease with altitude in common pheasant due to the harsh conditions brought forth by environmental factors at high altitudes.

The results indicated that the atmospheric pressure factor and the air temperature factor had significant effects on both male and female body size. Atmospheric pressure and temperature are often associated with a significant decrease with rising elevation; for every additional 100m above sea level, temperature drops by 0.6, while atmospheric pressure is reduced by 0.67 KPa. However, male body weight, body length, wing length and tail length had significant negative correlations with the air temperature factor (P<0.05). Usually, air temperature decreases with rising altitude and latitude. The overall pheasant body size (such as weight, wings length, etc.) is larger with increasing latitude. Essentially, the body size of the common pheasant is significantly larger at high latitudes in colder regions than at low latitudes of warmer regions (Table VI). Conversely, some measures of body size, such as skull length, decrease as the altitude rises. That is to say that the body size of the common pheasant is significantly smaller at high altitudes than at low altitudes (Table VI). Therefore, altitude is the primary factor of morphological variation in different areas, as compared to latitude. Furthermore, the wind speed factor had a significant effect on male wing length (P=0.017) (Table IV), thus indicating that the greater the wind speed in a given area, the longer the wing length of male common pheasants situated in said region. Longer wings have increased flight ability (Sun et al., 2016) and allow for easier acclimation to the environment, in order to survive. Therefore, geographic variation in body size is assumed to reflect adaptation to local environmental conditions for conspecifics (Mayr, 1956; Millien et al., 2006; Yom-Tov and Geffen, 2011). It is the common pheasant’s adaptability in response to environmental changes that has facilitated the vast distribution of this species.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We wish to thank Professor Lei Fumin from the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS); Professor Yang Xiaojun from the Kunming Institute of Zoology, CAS; and Professor Zou Fasheng, the South China Institute for Endangered Animals, for kindly assisting in the collection of samples. This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No.31372171), as well as the Building Plan for Scientific Research Innovation Team of Leshan Normal University.

 

Statement of conflict of interest

The authors declare that “there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this article”. 

 

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