Spadefoot-tadpole polyphenism: Histological analysis of differential muscle growth in carnivores and omnivores



Understanding the evolution of phenotypic plasticities and the connections among the environment, genotype, and phenotype requires detailed understanding of the proximate mechanisms regulating morphological differences between phenotypes. Spea multiplicata tadpoles can develop into two different phenotypes, i.e. carnivores and omnivores, which differ in many morphological and behavioral traits. One of the major differences is enlargement of the jaw and tail musculature in carnivores relative to those of omnivores. We investigated pattern of muscle enlargement by measuring differences in myofiber number and cross-sectional area between the phenotypes during early and mid-development. The data show that both hyperplasia and hypertrophy underlie the carnivores' enlargement of both the orbitohyoideus jaw muscle (OH) and the tail muscle (TL). Carnivores had more OH and TL myofibers than did omnivores at all ages, but the rate of myofiber addition differed, by ∼9 and 17 myofibers per day respectively. Carnivores also had larger OH and TL myofibers than did omnivores, at many of the ages studied, and the rate of myofiber cross-sectional area increase (log-transformed myofiber cross-sectional area plotted against age in days) was significantly greater for carnivores than for omnivores in the internal, but not the peripheral, regions for both the OH and TL muscle. J. Morphol. 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.