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November 2015


Many animals with complex life cycles can cope with environmental uncertainty by altering the timing of life history switch points through plasticity. Pond hydroperiod has important consequences for the fitness of aquatic organisms and many taxa alter the timing of life history switch points in response to habitat desiccation. For example, larval amphibians can metamorphose early to escape drying ponds. Such plasticity may induce variation in size and morphology of juveniles which can result in carry-over effects on jumping performance. To investigate the carry-over effects of metamorphic plasticity to pond drying, we studied the Túngara frog, Physalaemus pustulosus, a tropical anuran that breeds in highly ephemeral habitats. We conducted an outdoor field mesocosm experiment in which we manipulated water depth and desiccation and measured time and size at metamorphosis, tibiofibula length and jumping performance. We also conducted a complimentary laboratory experiment in which we manipulated resources, water depth and desiccation. In the field experiment, metamorphs from dry-down treatments emerged earlier, but at a similar size to metamorphs from constant depth treatments. In the laboratory experiment, metamorphs from the low depth and dry-down treatments emerged earlier and smaller. In both experiments, frogs from dry-down treatments had relatively shorter legs, which negatively impacted their absolute jumping performance. In contrast, reductions in resources delayed and reduced size at metamorphosis, but had no negative effect on jumping performance. To place these results in a broader context, we review past studies on carry-over effects of the larval environment on jumping performance. Reductions in mass and limb length generally resulted in lower jumping performance across juvenile anurans tested to date. Understanding the consequences of plasticity on size, morphology and performance can elucidate the linkages between life stages.


Copyright © 2015 Charbonnier and Vonesh This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.

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