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J Anim Ecol. 2006 May;75(3):686-92.

Short- and long-term consequences of thermal variation in the larval environment of anurans.

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School of Integrative Biology, The University of Queensland, St Lucia Queensland 4072, Australia.


1. To survive adverse or unpredictable conditions in the ontogenetic environment, many organisms retain a level of phenotypic plasticity that allows them to meet the challenges of rapidly changing conditions. Larval anurans are widely known for their ability to modify behaviour, morphology and physiological processes during development, making them an ideal model system for studies of environmental effects on phenotypic traits. Although temperature is one of the most important factors influencing the growth, development and metamorphic condition of larval anurans, many studies have failed to include ecologically relevant thermal fluctuations among their treatments. 2. We compared the growth and age at metamorphosis of striped marsh frogs Limnodynastes peronii raised in a diurnally fluctuating thermal regime and a stable regime of the same mean temperature. We then assessed the long-term effects of the larval environment on the morphology and performance of post-metamorphic frogs. 3. Larval L. peronii from the fluctuating treatment were significantly longer throughout development and metamorphosed about 5 days earlier. Frogs from the fluctuating group metamorphosed at a smaller mass and in poorer condition compared with the stable group, and had proportionally shorter legs. 4. Frogs from the fluctuating group showed greater jumping performance at metamorphosis and less degradation in performance during a 10-week dormancy. Treatment differences in performance could not be explained by whole-animal morphological variation, suggesting improved contractile properties of the muscles in the fluctuating group.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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