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J Exp Zool. 2002 Jan 1;292(1):32-40.

Role for corticoids in mediating the response of Rana pipiens tadpoles to intraspecific competition.

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Department of Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1048, USA.


Competition is known to decrease growth and development rate in tadpoles, but the physiological basis for this phenomenon is poorly understood. We hypothesized that competition results in increased production of stress hormones and that these hormones are responsible for the suppression of growth and development. To test this hypothesis, we measured whole-body corticosterone content in premetamorphic Leopard frog (Rana pipiens) tadpoles raised at two different population densities and three different food levels. Whole body corticosterone content was elevated in tadpoles subjected to either limited food (at low density) or high density. Within the low and intermediate food treatments, high density reduced tadpole growth and slowed development. Limited food slowed growth and development at all densities. Blocking corticoid synthesis by treating tadpoles with metyrapone (MTP) reversed the growth suppression caused by high density (tested in the intermediate food level treatment) but did not alter the effect of density on development rate. MTP treatment did not alter the depressive effect of limited resources on growth or development. Our results suggest that elevated corticoid biosynthesis mediates the negative effect of increased population density (i.e., increased intraspecific competition) on tadpole growth.

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