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Glob Chang Biol. 2015 Mar;21(3):1058-65. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12720. Epub 2014 Sep 29.

Warmer winters reduce frog fecundity and shift breeding phenology, which consequently alters larval development and metamorphic timing.

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Department of Biology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, 44106-7080, USA.


One widely documented phenological response to climate change is the earlier occurrence of spring-breeding events. While such climate change-driven shifts in phenology are common, their consequences for individuals and populations have rarely been investigated. I addressed this gap in our knowledge by using a multi-year observational study of six wood frog (Rana sylvatica) populations near the southern edge of their range. I tested first if winter temperature or precipitation affected the date of breeding and female fecundity, and second if timing of breeding affected subsequent larval development rate, mass at metamorphosis, date of metamorphosis, and survival. Warmer winters were associated with earlier breeding but reduced female fecundity. Winter precipitation did not affect breeding date, but was positively associated with female fecundity. There was no association between earlier breeding and larval survival or mass at metamorphosis, but earlier breeding was associated with delayed larval development. The delay in larval development was explained through a counterintuitive correlation between breeding date and temperature during larval development. Warmer winters led to earlier breeding, which in turn was associated with cooler post-breeding temperatures that slowed larval development. The delay in larval development did not fully compensate for the earlier breeding, such that for every 2 days earlier that breeding took place, the average date of metamorphosis was 1 day earlier. Other studies have found that earlier metamorphosis is associated with increased postmetamorphic growth and survival, suggesting that earlier breeding has beneficial effects on wood frog populations.


amphibian; climate; conservation; development; metamorphosis; phenology

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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