Evol Ecol Res 13: 415-429 (2011)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Adaptive plasticity of life-history traits to pond drying in three species of Patagonian anurans

M.G. Perotti1, F.G. Jara1 and C.A. Úbeda2

1Laboratorio de Fotobiología, INIBIOMA (CONICET-Universidad Nacional del Comahue), San Carlos de Bariloche, Río Negro, Argentina and 2Departamento de Zoología, INIBIOMA (CONICET-Universidad Nacional del Comahue), San Carlos de Bariloche, Río Negro, Argentina

Correspondence: M.G. Perotti, Laboratorio de Fotobiología, INIBIOMA (CONICET-Universidad Nacional del Comahue), Quintral 1250, R 8400 FRF San Carlos de Bariloche, Río Negro, Argentina.
e-mail: perottigaby@yahoo.com


Question: Does pond permanency affect life-history traits of endemic anurans from Patagonia?

Background: Amphibians inhabiting North Patagonia breed at ponds that differ strongly in their water permanency. The role of phenotypic plasticity in adapting to variable environments could be fundamental in these Patagonian anurans.

Prediction: In comparisons between populations and between species, we predicted that size at metamorphosis and developmental time of three endemic anurans from Patagonia are adaptive traits when these species are exposed to the selective pressure of pond drying.

Organisms: Pleurodema thaul, Pleurodema bufoninum, and Rhinella spinulosa, the most common species of amphibians in North Patagonia, breed and develop in a gradient of environmental scenarios that include ponds with highly heterogeneous hydroperiods.

Methods: We recorded age and size at metamorphosis of larvae and metamorphs in 15 natural ponds. To analyse the effect of hydroperiod on these traits, we performed common garden experiments by simulating two different water volumes (decreasing vs. constant).

Results and conclusion: The anurans responded to the selective pressure of drying environments by reducing size and time to metamorphosis. These responses were also evident in laboratory experiments. Wetlands with shorter hydroperiods resulted in shorter larval periods and smaller metamorphs. Rhinella spinulosa developed faster in the decreasing water treatment, but its metamorphs did not differ in size between treatments. The two Pleurodema species also developed faster in the decreasing water treatment, and metamorphs reached smaller sizes in the decreasing water treatment. Pleurodema species showed strong evidence of adaptive significance of these traits based on comparisons between populations.

Keywords: adaptive plasticity, development, Patagonian anurans, pond drying, size at metamorphosis.

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