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Am Nat. 2007 Nov;170(5):793-9. Epub 2007 Sep 18.

Parasites lost? An overlooked hypothesis for the evolution of alternative reproductive strategies in amphibians.

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  • 1Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia, Aiken, South Carolina 29802, USA.


Amphibians exhibit the greatest diversity of reproductive strategies of all tetrapod vertebrates. While authors have traditionally attributed the evolution of these strategies to factors such as complex topography, unpredictable larval environments, and predation on larvae and eggs, support for any of these hypotheses has been limited. Importantly, most authors have ignored parasites, including unicellular pathogens and multicellular parasites, as selective agents capable of influencing amphibian evolution. Insights in disease transmission, amphibian immunity, and their interaction with various life histories require that we consider parasites to be selective pressures in our exploration of the evolution of amphibian reproductive strategies. I review recent findings and describe how these principles converge to form a novel conceptual hypothesis for the evolution of alternative reproductive strategies in amphibians. I offer some specific predictions and recommend that parasites be considered with other selective pressures when constructing formal, falsifiable hypotheses during evaluative studies of amphibian reproductive behavior.

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