Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


The southern short-tailed shrew (Blarina carolinensis) inhabits the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, the Gulf Coastal Plain, Florida, and the Atlantic Coastal Plain as far north as Virginia. Since its description by Bachman in 1837, this species has been widely studied and has a long and convoluted taxonomic history. Many of the morphometric studies were performed in different geographic locations and used different methodologies. These differences have made it difficult to make broad statements about the relationships within this species. Recently, a study of cranial measurements of specimens from the three subspecies of B. carolinensis found in Florida, identified a small population whose measurements were significantly different from other populations of Blarina in the state, which resulted in the recognition of another species, B. shermani. Thus, I examined the species as a whole and described how cranial morphology varied geographically. My study examined B. carolinensis in North Carolina and Virginia; compared the three subspecies to determine the amount of difference between them; and also tested for the presence of populations that exhibited noticeably different morphology from the bulk of the species. Specimens were borrowed from 28 museums. The following cranial measurements were recorded for each specimen: occipito-premaxillary length, cranial breadth, maxillary breadth, interorbital breadth, height of mandible, breadth of the condyloid process, and length of molariform tooth row. Principle Components Analysis, Discriminant Function Analysis, and Multivariate Analysis of Variance showed that B. c. peninsulae was often more different than not from B. c. carolinensis and B. c. minima; and there were mixed results for the type and amount of difference between B. c. carolinensis and B. c. minima. These results indicate the existence of two subspecies rather than three. One subspecies, B. c. peninsulae, is retained and is located in peninsular Florida. Blarina carolinensis minima is synonomized under B. c. carolinensis and is located throughout the rest of the species’ range.


Dr. Elmer J. Finck

Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type



© 2010 Jennifer O'Neill


For questions contact

Included in

Biology Commons