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Evolution. 2003 Feb;57(2):352-62.

Geographic variation in acid stress tolerance of the moor frog, Rana arvalis. I. Local adaptation.

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Department of Population Biology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18 D, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden.


Spatially varying directional selection together with restricted gene flow among populations is expected to lead to local adaptation. One environmental factor that potentially causes strong directional selection, but is little explored in evolutionary terms, is naturally and anthropogenically induced acidity. We studied local adaptation to acidity in four Swedish populations (two originating from areas that have suffered from severe anthropogenic acidification during the 1900s and two from areas which have remained neutral due to higher buffering capacity) of the moor frog Rana arvalis in a laboratory experiment by investigating whether differences in acid tolerance correspond to population origin. Embryos were raised from fertilization to hatching at three different pH levels (pH 4.0, 4.25 and 7.5), corresponding to levels experienced by these populations in nature, and acid stress tolerance was measured in terms of embryonic survival, hatchling size, and age. Evidence for local adaptation in all of these traits was found, the acid origin embryos having higher survival and less impaired growth performance under acid conditions than the neutral origin embryos. Our estimated rates of divergence (0.007-0.102 haldanes) suggest a rapid adaptation process in response to anthropogenic environmental change, and that the different traits have evolved at relatively similar rates.

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