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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2000 Nov-Dec;73(6):829-40.

Effects of temperature on energy cost and timing of embryonic and larval development of the terrestrially breeding moss frog, Bryobatrachus nimbus.

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Department of Environmental Biology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia.


The Australian moss frog, Bryobatrachus nimbus, oviposits four to 16 large eggs in terrestrial nests constructed in moss or lichen in subalpine regions of southern Tasmania. Nidicolous larvae overwinter beneath snow, reaching metamorphosis without feeding after 395 d, the longest development time known for an endotrophic anuran. However, a few clutches develop more quickly and metamorphose before winter. This study examines the effect of temperature on development time and energy expenditure by measuring temperatures and developmental stages in field nests as well as rates of oxygen consumption (Vo2), developmental stage, body mass, and energy content in the laboratory at three relevant temperatures (5 degrees, 10 degrees, 15 degrees C). Eggs and larvae reared at 5 degrees C differentiated very slowly, and their development time far exceeded those in natural nests, but development times at 10 degrees and 15 degrees C averaged 277 and 149 d, respectively, and were shorter than field incubation times. Generally, respiration rates of aquatic hatchlings were low in comparison with other species but increased with larval age and jumped about 25% higher near metamorphosis when larvae were able to air breathe. The mean energy density was 26.0 J mg(-1) for the dry ova and 20.6 J mg(-1) for a dry gut-free froglet, and total production efficiency was 61.5%. We developed a model based on the relationships between incubation temperature and V&d2;o2 to estimate the respiratory cost of development to metamorphosis, the first such study for an amphibian. The cost was 177 J at 15 degrees C, 199 J at 10 degrees C, and at least 249 J at 5 degrees C, and we predicted that continual development at 5 degrees C would lead to premature yolk depletion because it equalled the 249 J contained in fresh ova. Continuously logged field-nest temperatures and interpolation of laboratory data provided estimates of development rates, Vo2, and respiratory energy costs in field nests. Development to metamorphosis required between 185 and 234 J when larvae overwintered, but completion of metamorphosis before winter saved 123 J. However, the advantage of emergence in warmer months, when conditions are suitable for feeding and growth, may offset the greater energy cost of overwintering.

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