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J Exp Zool A Ecol Genet Physiol. 2007 Nov 1;307(11):637-46.

Tradeoffs between somatic and gonadal investments during development in the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis).

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Department of Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611-8525, USA.


Tradeoffs between time to and size at metamorphosis occur in many organisms with complex life histories. The ability to accelerate metamorphosis can increase survival to the next life stage, but the resulting smaller size at metamorphosis is often associated with lower post-metamorphic survival or reduced fecundity of adults. Reduced fecundity is thought to be because of reduced energy reserves, longer time to maturity, or reduced capacity to carry eggs or compete for mates. This pattern could also be explained by a shift in allocation to somatic growth that further retards the growth or development of reproductive tissues. The main goal of this study was to determine if the relationship between growth and development of somatic and gonadal tissues depends on environmental conditions. We address this question through two experiments in which we quantify the development and growth of the body and gonads of Xenopus laevis reared in different resource environments. First, tadpoles were reared communally and development and growth were evaluated over time. Restricted food reduced somatic and gonadal growth rate, but did not affect the developmental rate of either tissue type. Second, tadpoles were reared individually and evaluated at metamorphosis. Restricted food reduced somatic development and growth, but only influenced size, and not developmental stage of testes at metamorphosis. This work demonstrates that environmental conditions influence tradeoffs between growth and development of somatic and gonadal tissues, apparently in a sex-specific manner. These tradeoffs may contribute to phenotypic correlations between small size and reduced fitness.

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