(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists studying mice from the Andean mountains in Patagonia noticed something they couldn’t explain: mice on the western side of the mountains were larger than those on the eastern side, but their DNA showed that they all belonged to the same species.
The researchers found that existing biological laws do not explain the difference in size. So they put forward a new hypothesis.
In a new paper published in the Journal of Biogeography, scientists hypothesize that mice on the western slopes were larger because that side of the mountain range has more rainfall, which means there is more food for mice.
“There are many rules of ecogeography that scientists use to explain the trends we see over and over again in nature,” says Noe de la Sancha, a field researcher at Chicago’s Field Museum.
“In this work, I think we may have found something new: the rain shadow effect can cause changes in size and shape in mammals.”
In nature, there are many “laws” that explain the patterns that we observe in life. For example, Bergman’s rule explains why animals of the same species are larger at higher latitudes.
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