The application of millions of tons of road deicing salts every winter in North America presents significant survival challenges to amphibians inhabiting roadside habitats. While much is known of the effects of NaCl on anuran tadpoles, less is known of effects on amphibian eggs, or any caudate life stage. In addition, little is known of the effects of MgCl2, which is now the 2nd most commonly used road deicer. Most studies have considered amphibians to be helpless victims of deicing salts, and ignore the possibility of the evolution of local adaptation to this stressor. We attempt to address these knowledge gaps and explore this evolutionary potential by examining the effects of NaCl and MgCl2 on the survival and development of eggs from different female rough-skinned newts (Taricha granulosa) from the same population. We demonstrate that both salts, at environmentally relevant concentrations, severely affect the embryonic survival and development of this amphibian, but that the effects of the salt are dependent on the identity of the mother. This female × treatment interaction results in substantial variation in tolerance to road deicing salts among newt families, providing the raw material necessary for natural selection and the evolution of local adaptation in this amphibian.
amphibian; egg; local adaptation; magnesium chloride; natural selection; road deicing salt; Taricha granulosa; variation
Temperature effects on ectotherms are widely studied particularly in insects. However, the life-history effects of temperature experienced during a window of embryonic development, that is egg stage, have rarely been considered. We simulated fluctuating temperatures and examined how this affects the operational sex ratio (OSR) of hatching as well as nymph and adult fitness in a leafhopper, Scaphoideus titanus. Specifically, after a warm or cold incubation we compared males and females hatching dynamics with their consequences on the sex ratio in the course of time, body size, weight, and developmental rate of the two populations, all reared on the same posthatching temperature. Males and females eggs respond differently, with females more sensitive to variation in incubation temperature. The different responses of both sexes have consequences on the sex ratio dynamic of hatchings with a weaker protandry after warm incubation. Temperatures experienced by eggs have more complex consequences on posthatching development. Later nymphal instars that hatched from eggs exposed to warm temperature were larger and bigger but developmental rate of the two populations was not affected. Our study demonstrates how incubation temperature could affect operational sex ratio and posthatching development in an insect and how this may be critical for population growth.
Grape; insect vector; operational sex ratio; protandry; Scaphoideus titanus; sex ratio
A major life stage transition in birds and other oviparous sauropsids is the hatching of the cleidoic egg. Not unlike amphibian metamorphosis, hatching in these species can be regarded as a transition from a relatively well-protected “aqueous” environment to a more hazardous and terrestrial life outside the egg, a transition in which thyroid hormones (THs) (often in concert with glucocorticoids) play an important role. In precocial birds such as the chicken, the perihatch period is characterized by peak values of THs. THs are implicated in the control of muscle development, lung maturation and the switch from chorioallantoic to pulmonary respiration, yolk sac retraction, gut development and induction of hepatic genes to accommodate the change in dietary energy source, initiation of thermoregulation, and the final stages of brain maturation as well as early post-hatch imprinting behavior. There is evidence that, at least for some of these processes, THs may have similar roles in non-avian sauropsids. In altricial birds such as passerines on the other hand, THs do not rise significantly until well after hatching and peak values coincide with the development of endothermy. It is not known how hatching-associated processes are regulated by hormones in these animals or how this developmental mode evolved from TH-dependent precocial hatching.
altricial; bird; egg; embryo; hatching; precocial; reptile; thyroid hormone
Size variance among similarly aged individuals within populations is a pattern common to many organisms that is a result of interactions between intrinsic and extrinsic traits of individuals. While genetic and maternal effects, as well as physiological and behavioral traits have been shown to contribute to size variation in animal populations, teasing apart the influence of such factors on individual growth rates remain a challenge. Furthermore, tracing the effects of these interactions across life stages and in shaping adult phenotypes also requires further exploration. In this study we investigated the relationship between genetics, hatching patterns, behaviors, neuroendocrine stress axis activity and variance in growth and metamorphosis among same-aged larval amphibians. Through parallel experiments we found that in the absence of conspecific interactions, hatch time and to a lesser extent egg clutch identity (i.e. genetics and maternal effects) influenced the propensity for growth and development in individual tadpoles and determined metamorphic traits. Within experimental groups we found that variance in growth rates was associated with size-dependent foraging behaviors and responses to food restriction. We also found an inverse relationship between glucocorticoid (GC) hormone levels and body mass and developmental stage among group-reared tadpoles, which suggests that GC expression plays a role in regulating differing within-population growth trajectories in response to density-dependent conditions. Taken together these findings suggest that factors that influence hatching conditions can have long-term effects on growth and development. These results also raise compelling questions regarding the extent to which maternal and genetic factors influence physiological and behavioral profiles in amphibians.
For prey species that rely on learning to recognize their predators, natural selection should favour individuals able to learn as early as possible. The earliest point at which individuals can gather information about the identity of their potential predators is during the embryonic stage. Indeed, recent experiments have demonstrated that amphibians can learn to recognize predators prior to hatching. Here, we conditioned woodfrog embryos to recognize predatory salamander cues either in the morning or in the evening, and subsequently exposed the two-week-old tadpoles to salamander cues either in the morning or in the evening, and recorded the intensity of their antipredator behaviour. The data indicate that amphibians learn to recognize potential predators while still in the egg, and also learn the temporal component of this information, which they use later in life, to adjust the intensity of their antipredator responses throughout the day.
predator recognition; temporal learning; embryonic learning
Predation may create strong natural selection pressure on the phenotype and life history characteristics of prey species. The Izu scincid lizards (Plestiodon latiscutatus) that inhabit the four Japanese Izu Islands with only bird predators are drab brown, mature later, lay small clutches of large eggs, and hatch large neonates. In contrast, skinks on seven islands with both snake and bird predators are conspicuously colored, mature early, lay large clutches of small eggs, and hatch small neonates. We test the hypothesis that these suites of traits have evolved independently on each island via natural selection pressures from one of two predator regimes – birds-only and birds + snakes. Using two mtDNA genes and a nuclear locus, we infer a time-calibrated phylogeny of P. latiscutatus that reveals a basal split between Mikura and all islands south, and Miyake, all islands north, and the Izu Peninsula. Populations inhabiting Miyake, Niijima, Shikine, and Toshima are not monophyletic, suggesting either multiple colonizations or an artifact of incomplete lineage sorting (ILS). We therefore developed novel phylogenetic comparative analyses that assume either a multiple colonization or more restrictive single colonization ILS scenario and found 1) statistically significant support for the of different suites of phenotypic and life history characteristics with the presence of bird-only or bird + snake predator assemblages, and 2) strong phylogenetic support for at least two independent derivations of either the “bird-only” or “snakes + birds” phenotypes regardless of colonization scenario. Finally, our time-calibrated phylogeographic analysis supports the conclusion that the ancestor to modern Izu Island P. latiscutatus dispersed from the mainland to the Izu proto-islands between 3–7.6 million years ago (Ma). These lineages remained present in the area during successive formation of the islands, with one lineage re-colonizing the mainland 0.24-0.7 Ma.
A study of life-history traits was made to determine factors associated with the fitness of Meloidogyne incognita isolates virulent to resistance gene Rk in cowpea. Egg hatch, root penetration, egg mass production, and fecundity (eggs per egg mass) of avirulent and virulent phenotypes were compared among M. incognita isolates, isofemale lines, and single descent lines over multiple generations on resistant and susceptible cowpea. Variation (P ≤ 0.05) in both hatch and root penetration rates was found among isolates at a given generation. However, this variation was not consistent within nematode lines among generations, and there was no correlation with level of virulence, except for penetration and virulence on resistant cowpea at generation 20. Resistant and susceptible cowpea roots were penetrated at similar levels. Differences in reproductive factors on resistant plants were correlated with levels of virulence expression. In some isofemale lines, single descent lines, and isolates, lower (P ≤ 0.05) rates of egg mass production and fecundity on susceptible cowpea were associated with virulence to Rk, indicating a trade-off between reproductive fitness and virulence. Other virulent nematode lines from the same isolates did not have reduced reproductive ability on susceptible cowpea over 27 generations. Thus, virulent lineages varied in reproductive ability on susceptible cowpea, contributing to adaptation and maintenance of virulence within M. incognita populations under stabilizing selection.
cowpea; fitness; genetic variation; Meloidogyne incognita; resistance; root-knot nematode; selection; Vigna unguiculata; virulence
The regulation of hatching in oviparous animals is important for successful reproduction and survival, but is poorly understood. We unexpectedly found that RU-486, a progesterone and glucocorticoid antagonist, interferes with hatching of viable tree lizard (Urosaurus ornatus) embryos in a dose-dependent manner and hypothesized that embryonic glucocorticoids regulate hatching. To test this hypothesis, we treated eggs with corticosterone (CORT) or vehicle on Day 30 (85%) of incubation, left other eggs untreated, and observed relative hatch order and hatch time. In one study, the CORT egg hatched first in 9 of 11 clutches. In a second study, the CORT egg hatched first in 9 of 12 clutches, before vehicle-treated eggs in 10 of 12 clutches, and before untreated eggs in 7 of 9 clutches. On average, CORT eggs hatched 18.2h before vehicle-treated eggs and 11.6h before untreated eggs. Thus, CORT accelerates hatching of near-term embryos and RU-486 appears to block this effect. CORT may mobilize energy substrates that fuel hatching and/or accelerate lung development, and may provide a mechanism by which stressed embryos escape environmental stressors.
development; glucocorticoids; oviparous; reproduction; Urosaurus ornatus; stress
Variation in the amount of nuclear DNA, the C-value, does not correlate with differences in morphological complexity. There are two classes of explanations for this observation, which is known as the 'C-value paradox'. The quantity of DNA may serve a 'nucleotypic' function that is positively selected. Alternatively, large genomes may consist of junk DNA, which increases until it negatively affects fitness. Attempts to resolve the C-value paradox focus on the link between genome size and fitness. This link is usually sought in life history traits, particularly developmental rates. I examined the relationship among two life history traits, egg size and embryonic developmental time and genome size, in 15 species of plethodontid salamanders. Surprisingly, there is no correlation between egg size and developmental time, a relationship included in models of life history evolution. However, genome size is positively correlated with embryonic developmental time, a result that is robust with respect to many sources of variation in the data. Without information on the targets of natural selection it is not possible with these data to distinguish between nucleotypic and junk DNA explanations for the C-value paradox.
Genome Size C-Value Developmental Time Egg Size Plethodontidae Independent Contrasts
Knowledge of the ecological differences between the molecular forms of Anopheles gambiae and their sibling species, An. arabiensis might lead to understanding their unique contribution to disease transmission and to better vector control as well as to understanding the evolutionary forces that have separated them.
The distributions of hatching time of eggs of wild An. gambiae and An. arabiensis females were compared in different water types. Early and late hatchers of the S molecular form were compared with respect to their total protein content, sex ratio, development success, developmental time and adult body size.
Overall, the distribution of hatching time was strongly skewed to the right, with 89% of the eggs hatching during the second and third day post oviposition, 10% hatching during the next four days and the remaining 1% hatching over the subsequent week. Slight, but significant differences were found between species and between the molecular forms in all water types. Differences in hatching time distribution were also found among water types (in each species and molecular form), suggesting that the eggs change their hatching time in response to chemical factors in the water. Early hatchers were similar to late hatchers except that they developed faster and produced smaller adults than late hatchers.
Differences in hatching time and speed of development among eggs of the same batch may be adaptive if catastrophic events such as larval site desiccation are not rare and the site's quality is unpredictable. The egg is not passive and its hatching time depends on water factors. Differences in hatching time between species and molecular forms were slight, probably reflecting that conditions in their larval sites are rather similar.
Rather than being a static, species specific trait, reproductive behavior in female amphibians is variable within an individual during the breeding season when females are capable of reproductive activity. Changes in receptivity coincide with changes in circulating estrogen. Estrogen is highest at the point when females are ready to choose a male and lay eggs. At this time female receptivity (her probability of responding to a male vocal signal) is highest and her selectivity among conspecific calls (measured by her probability of responding to a degraded or otherwise usually unattractive male signal) is lowest. These changes occur even though females retain the ability to discriminate different acoustic characteristics of various conspecific calls. After releasing her eggs, female amphibians quickly become less receptive and more choosy in terms of their responses to male sexual advertisement signals. Male vocal signals stimulate both behavior and estrogen changes in amphibian females making mating more probable. The changes in female reproductive behavior are the same as those generally accepted as indicative of a change in female sexual arousal leading to copulation. They are situationally triggered, gated by interactions with males, and decline with the consummation of sexual reproduction with a chosen male. The changes can be triggered by either internal physiological state or by the presence of stimuli presented by males, and the same stimuli change both behavior and physiological (endocrine) state in such a way as to make acceptance of a male more likely. Thus amphibian females demonstrate many of the same general characteristics of changing female sexual state that in mammals indicate sexual arousal.
amphibians; reproduction; female; communication; estrogen
The carrying of eggs often renders parents vulnerable to predators due to increased conspicuousness or decreased mobility. Nonetheless, egg-carrying parents can escape from the predators to which they are vulnerable. Previous studies have demonstrated heavy predation by spider-eating jumping spiders (Portia labiata) on egg-carrying spitting spider (Scytodes pallida) females, but little predation on eggless females. If the timing of hatching is phenotypically plastic, then both S. pallida females and their eggs could reduce the risk of predation by hatching early. Hence, this study examines the hatching responses of S. pallida to chemical cues from P. labiata, both in the laboratory and in the field, and addresses the following questions. (i) Do cues from predatory P. labiata influence the hatching traits of S. pallida? (ii) Are the olfactory cues from predators sufficient for predator detection by S. pallida ? (iii) Are hatching responses to predatory P. labiata controlled by egg-carrying S. pallida females, or directly by their embryos? The study provides evidence of hatching as a life-history switch point, which shows an adaptive plasticity in response to predation risk in egg-carrying S. pallida. Egg-carrying S. pallida females, but not unattended eggs, adjust egg-hatching time (the interval between oviposition and hatching) in response to the threat of predation on both the female and her eggs by P. labiata. In the presence of P. labiata, eggs that are carried by females hatch sooner; the hatchlings of these eggs are therefore smaller than hatchlings born in the absence of P. labiata. Chemical cues that are released from the draglines of P. labiata are sufficient to elicit changes in the egg-hatching traits of S. pallida. Hatching early in response to this predator may benefit both females and their offspring. To my knowledge, this is the first direct experimental study to demonstrate predator-induced hatching plasticity in spiders and, in particular, in animals with parental care.
Epiphanes senta is a littoral rotifer species that occurs in temporary waters and displays a mating behaviour which has not, to my knowledge, so far been described for monogonont rotifers. Monogonont rotifers show distinctive periods within their life cycle during which mictic females appear. Mictic females produce haploid eggs that develop into males or into diapausing eggs if fertilized. The females of E. senta are mostly stationary on the substrate while males are more active swimmers. If they encounter eggs with female embryos of their own species, they attend them and mate with the hatching female. Experiments showed that males are able to discriminate between male, female and diapausing eggs. They exhibit a strong preference for female eggs that are only a few hours away from hatching compared with eggs in early developmental stages. Further experiments did not show any significant differences in male attendance of mictic and amictic eggs. It is hypothesized that males judge the age of a female egg by sensing a chemical that is produced by the growing embryo and diffuses through the egg shell. The male mating behaviour is similar to precopulatory mate guarding known from arthropods but it lacks the monopolization of the female by the male.
Trade-offs between anti-parasite defence mechanisms and other life history traits limit the evolution of host resistance to parasites and have important implications for understanding diseases such as malaria. Mosquitoes have not evolved complete resistance to malaria parasites and one hypothesis is that anti-malaria defence mechanisms are costly.
We used matrix population models to compare the population growth rates among lines of Anopheles gambiae that had been selected for resistance or high susceptibility to the rodent malaria parasite, Plasmodium yoelii nigeriensis. The population growth rate of the resistant line was significantly lower than that of the highly susceptible and the unselected control lines, regardless of whether mosquitoes were infected with Plasmodium or not. The lower population growth of malaria-resistant mosquitoes was caused by reduced post blood-feeding survival of females and poor egg hatching.
With respect to eradicating malaria, the strategy of releasing Plasmodium-resistant Anopheles mosquitoes is unlikely to be successful if the costs of Plasmodium-resistance in the field are as great as the ones measured in this study. High densities of malaria-resistant mosquitoes would have to be maintained by continuous release from captive breeding facilities.
The developmental threshold is the minimum size or condition that a developing organism must have reached in order for a life-history transition to occur. Although developmental thresholds have been observed for many organisms, inter-population variation among natural populations has not been examined. Since isolated populations can be subjected to strong divergent selection, population divergence in developmental thresholds can be predicted if environmental conditions favour fast or slow developmental time in different populations. Amphibian metamorphosis is a well-studied life-history transition, and using a common garden approach we compared the development time and the developmental threshold of metamorphosis in four island populations of the common frog Rana temporaria: two populations originating from islands with only temporary breeding pools and two from islands with permanent pools. As predicted, tadpoles from time-constrained temporary pools had a genetically shorter development time than those from permanent pools. Furthermore, the variation in development time among females from temporary pools was low, consistent with the action of selection on rapid development in this environment. However, there were no clear differences in the developmental thresholds between the populations, indicating that the main response to life in a temporary pool is to shorten the development time.
development time; developmental threshold; local adaptation; pool permanence; Rana temporaria; reaction norm
Survival of biotypes of Heterodera glycines was studied in microplots and in the field. The field population was subjected to various cropping sequences. Viability of eggs overwintered in microplots was determined each spring by percentage hatch, percentage of hatched eggs penetrating roots, and numbers of females developing on Peking and PI 88788 soybeans. Eggs from the field were collected in the spring and fall and assayed for ability to develop on Peking and PI 88788. Hatch of isolates overwintered in the microplots averaged 13% in May 1989 and 19% in 1990. No differences in hatch were detected among the isolates in 1989. Numbers of juveniles penetrating susceptible roots averaged less than 20% of the hatched eggs each year. An isolate of a biotype parasitic on susceptible soybeans and the resistant soybean PI 88788 penetrated roots more successfully than other biotypes. A second isolate from North Carolina, parasitic on susceptible soybeans, PI 88788, and the resistant soybean Peking experienced selection against development on Peking during two winters. Only 17 % of the expected numbers of females developed on Peking from this isolate. In the microplot experiment, parasitism of PI 88788 and Peking had a selective disadvantage (selection coefficient) of s = 0.29 and 0.62 over all isolates, respectively. In the field experiment, the relative numbers of cysts on Peking and PI 88788 increased between the spring and fall on soybean, then decreased over the winter and under corn. Selection coefficients against parasitism of PI 88788 and Peking averaged 0,19 and 0.3 in the field population. In neither experiment did juveniles lose their ability to parasitize susceptible soybeans.
fitness; genetics; Heterodera glycines; nematode; race; selection; soybean cyst nematode; survival
Few studies have influenced thought on the nature of sexual selection to the extent of the classic paper of A. J. Bateman on mating patterns in Drosophila. However, interpretation of his study remains controversial, and a lack of modern empirical evidence prevents a consensus with respect to the perceived utility of Bateman's principles in the study of sexual selection. Here, we use a genetic study of natural mating patterns in the rough-skinned newt, Taricha granulosa, to investigate the concordance between Bateman's principles and the intensity of sexual selection. We found that males experienced strong sexual selection on tail height and body size, while sexual selection was undetectable in females. This direct quantification of sexual selection agreed perfectly with inferences that are based on Bateman's principles. Specifically, males (in comparison with females) exhibited greater standardized variances in reproductive and mating success, as well as a stronger relationship between mating success and reproductive success. Overall, our results illustrate that Bateman's principles provide the only quantitative measures of the mating system with explicit connections to formal selection theory and should be the central focus of studies of mating patterns in natural populations.
Female polymorphism is observed in various animal species, but is particularly common in damselflies. The maintenance of this polymorphism has traditionally been explained from frequency and density dependent sexual conflict, however, the role of abiotic factors has recently attracted more interest. Here, the role of ambient temperature in shaping life-history was investigated for the three female morphs of Ischnura elegans (Vander Linden) (Zygoptera: Coenagrionidae). Eggs were obtained from the three mature female morphs for two populations in the Netherlands. Using a split-brood design, eggs of both populations were divided between a cold and a warm treatment group in the laboratory, and egg survival and hatching time were measured. Significant thermal plasticity was found in both hatching time and egg survival between both temperature treatments. However, individuals born to mothers belonging to different colour morphs did not differ in their response to temperature treatment. Independent of colour morph, clear differences in both life-history traits between the populations were found, suggesting local adaptation. Specifically, individuals from one population hatched faster but had lower egg survival in both thermal regimes. The selection force establishing fast hatching could be (facultative) bivoltinism in one of the populations compared to univoltinism in the other. This would be in line with the more southern (and more coastal) location of the presumed bivoltine population and the inverse relation between voltinism and latitude known from earlier studies. However, other natural selection forces, e.g. deterioration of the aquatic habitat, may also drive fast hatching.
adaptation; egg mortality; hatching time; phenotypic plasticity; temperature
Exposure to olfactory cues during embryonic development can have long term impacts on birds and amphibians behaviour. Despite the vast literature on predator recognition and responses in fishes, few researchers have determined how fish embryos respond to predator cues. Here we exposed four-day-old rainbowfish (Melanotaenia duboulayi) embryos to cues emanating from a novel predator, a native predator and injured conspecifics. Their response was assessed by monitoring heart rate and hatch time. Results showed that embryos have an innate capacity to differentiate between cues as illustrated by faster heart rates relative to controls. The greatest increase in heart rate occurred in response to native predator odour. While we found no significant change in the time taken for eggs to hatch, all treatments experienced slight delays as expected if embryos are attempting to reduce exposure to larval predators.
Intestinal capillariasis caused by Capillaria philippinensis appeared first in the Philippines and subsequently in Thailand, Japan, Iran, Egypt, and Taiwan, but most infections occur in the Philippines and Thailand. As established experimentally, the life cycle involves freshwater fish as intermediate hosts and fish-eating birds as definitive hosts. Embryonated eggs from feces fed to fish hatch and grow as larvae in the fish intestines. Infective larvae fed to monkeys, Mongolian gerbils, and fish-eating birds develop into adults. Larvae become adults in 10 to 11 days, and the first-generation females produce larvae. These larvae develop into males and egg-producing female worms. Eggs pass with the feces, reach water, embryonate, and infect fish. Autoinfection is part of the life cycle and leads to hyperinfection. Humans acquire the infection by eating small freshwater fish raw. The parasite multiplies, and symptoms of diarrhea, borborygmus, abdominal pain, and edema develop. Chronic infections lead to malabsorption and hence to protein and electrolyte loss, and death results from irreversible effects of the infection. Treatment consists of electrolyte replacement and administration of an antidiarrheal agent and mebendazole or albendazole. Capillariasis philippinensis is considered a zoonotic disease of migratory fish-eating birds. The eggs are disseminated along flyways and infect the fish, and when fish are eaten raw, the disease develops.
Reproductive, phenotypic and life-history traits in many animal and plant taxa show geographic variation, indicating spatial variation in selection regimes. Maternal deposition to avian eggs, such as hormones, antibodies and antioxidants, critically affect development of the offspring, with long-lasting effects on the phenotype and fitness. Little is however known about large-scale geographical patterns of variation in maternal deposition to eggs. We studied geographical variation in egg components of a passerine bird, the pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), by collecting samples from 16 populations and measuring egg and yolk mass, albumen lysozyme activity, yolk immunoglobulins, yolk androgens and yolk total carotenoids. We found significant variation among populations in most egg components, but ca. 90% of the variation was among individuals within populations. Population however explained 40% of the variation in carotenoid levels. In contrast to our hypothesis, we found geographical trends only in carotenoids, but not in any of the other egg components. Our results thus suggest high within-population variation and leave little scope for local adaptation and genetic differentiation in deposition of different egg components. The role of these maternally-derived resources in evolutionary change should be further investigated.
To track Aedes aegypti (L.) egg-laying behavior in the field in Iquitos, Peru, we developed methods for 1) sampling DNA from live mosquitoes and 2) high through-put parentage analysis using microsatellite markers. We were able to amplify DNA extracted from a single hind leg, but not from the pupal exuvia. Removal of a leg from teneral females caused no significant changes in female behavioral or life history traits (e.g., longevity, blood feeding frequency, fecundity, egg hatch rate, gonotrophic cycle length, or oviposition behavior). Using a panel of nine microsatellite markers and an exclusion-based software program, we matched offspring to parental pairs in 10 Ae. aegypti test families in which parents originated from natural development sites in Iquitos. By mating known individuals in the laboratory, retaining the male, sampling the female’s DNA before release, and collecting offspring in the field, the technique we developed can be used to genotype large numbers of Ae. aegypti, reconstruct family relationships, and track the egg-laying behavior of individual Ae. aegypti in nature.
Aedes aegypti; DNA extraction; microsatellite genotyping; oviposition; individual behavior
Loss of pond habitat is catastrophic to aquatic larval amphibians, but even reduction in the amount of time a breeding site holds water (hydroperiod) can influence amphibian development and limit reproductive success. Using the landscape variation of a glacial valley in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem as the context for a natural experiment, we examined variation in growth pattern and life history of the salamander Ambystoma tigrinum melanostictum and determined how these developmental characteristics varied with hydroperiod over several summers.
In ponds that dried early in the season, maximum larval size was reduced relative to the sizes achieved in permanent ponds. Ephemeral ponds were associated with early metamorphosis at small body sizes, while permanent ponds facilitated longer larval periods and later metamorphosis. Paedomorphosis resulted from indefinite metamorphic postponement, and was identified only in the most permanent environments. Patterns of growth and allometry were similar between ponds with different hydroperiods, but considerable life history variation was derived from modulating the timing of and size at metamorphosis. Considering maximum rates of growth and inferring the minimum size at metamorphosis across 25 ponds over the course of three years, we calculated that hydroperiods longer than three months are necessary to support these populations through metamorphosis and/or reproductive maturity.
Landscape heterogeneity fosters life history variation in this natural population. Modulation of the complex ambystomatid life cycle allows this species to survive in unpredictable environments, but current trends towards rapid pond drying will promote metamorphosis at smaller sizes and could eliminate the paedomorphic phenotype from this region. Metamorphosis at small size is has been linked to altered fitness traits, including reduced survival and fecundity. Thus, widespread environmental truncation of larval periods may lead to decreased population persistence. We found that the hydroperiods of many ponds in this region are now shorter than the developmental period required for larvae to reach the minimum size for metamorphosis; these locations serve as reproductive sinks that may be detrimental for persistence of the species in the region.
Sibling competition has been proposed as an important evolutionary pressure driving interspecific variation in developmental rates. We tested this hypothesis using rates of extra-pair paternity and brood parasitism, as well as the degree of hatching asynchrony, as indices of sibling competition in a comparative analysis of 70 species of bird. We found mixed support for the influence of sibling competition on prenatal development. Brood parasitism was negatively correlated with the length of incubation, and hatching asynchrony was positively correlated with the length of incubation, but both correlations disappeared when phylogeny was controlled for. Extra-pair paternity, however, was negatively correlated with incubation length even when phylogeny was controlled for. The latter could represent support for the influence of sibling competition on prenatal development or indirect effects of correlated selection on both traits by adult mortality. The existence of these correlations demonstrates that life-history strategies include linkages among a larger suite of traits than previously recognized.
Detailing the genetic basis of adaptive variation in natural populations is a first step towards understanding the process of adaptive evolution, yet few ecologically relevant traits have been characterized at the genetic level in wild populations. Traits that mediate coevolutionary interactions between species are ideal for studying adaptation because of the intensity of selection and the well-characterized ecological context. We have previously described the ecological context, evolutionary history and partial genetic basis of tetrodotoxin (TTX) resistance in garter snakes (Thamnophis). Derived mutations in a voltage-gated sodium channel gene (Nav1.4) in three garter snake species are associated with resistance to TTX, the lethal neurotoxin found in their newt prey (Taricha). Here we evaluate the contribution of Nav1.4 alleles to TTX resistance in two of those species from central coastal California. We measured the phenotypes (TTX resistance) and genotypes (Nav1.4 and microsatellites) in a local sample of Thamnophis atratus and Thamnophis sirtalis. Allelic variation in Nav1.4 explains 23 per cent of the variation in TTX resistance in T. atratus while variation in a haphazard sample of the genome (neutral microsatellite markers) shows no association with the phenotype. Similarly, allelic variation in Nav1.4 correlates almost perfectly with TTX resistance in T. sirtalis, but neutral variation does not. These strong correlations suggest that Nav1.4 is a major effect locus. The simple genetic architecture of TTX resistance in garter snakes may significantly impact the dynamics of phenotypic coevolution. Fixation of a few alleles of major effect in some garter snake populations may have led to the evolution of extreme phenotypes and an ‘escape’ from the arms race with newts.
adaptation; gene of major effect; coevolution; Thamnophis; tetrodotoxin; sodium channel