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Both extinct and extant hominin populations display morphological features consistent with Bergmann's and Allen's Rules. However, the functional implications of the morphologies described by these ecological laws are poorly understood. We examined this through the lens of endurance running. Previous research concerning endurance running has focused on locomotor energetic economy. We considered a less-studied dimension of functionality, thermoregulation. The performance of male ultra-marathon runners (n = 88) competing in hot and cold environments was analysed with reference to expected thermoregulatory energy costs and the optimal morphologies predicted by Bergmann's and Allen's Rules. Ecogeographical patterning supporting both principles was observed in thermally challenging environments. Finishers of hot-condition events had significantly longer legs than finishers of cold-condition events. Furthermore, hot-condition finishers had significantly longer legs than those failing to complete hot-condition events. A degree of niche-picking was evident; athletes may have tailored their event entry choices in accordance with their previous race experiences. We propose that the interaction between prolonged physical exertion and hot or cold climates may induce powerful selective pressures driving morphological adaptation. The resulting phenotypes reduce thermoregulatory energetic expenditure, allowing diversion of energy to other functional outcomes such as faster running.
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