Hot tadpoles from cold environments need more nutrients – life history and stoichiometry reflects latitudinal adaptation



  1. High-latitude species (and populations within species) are adapted to short and cold summers. They often have high growth and development rates to fully use the short growing season and mature before the onset of winter.
  2. Within the context of ecological stoichiometry theory, this study combines ecology with evolution by relating latitudinal life-history adaptations to their molecular consequences in body nutrient composition in Rana temporaria tadpoles.
  3. Temperature and food quality were manipulated during the development of tadpoles from Arctic and Boreal origins. We determined tadpole growth rate, development rate, body size and nutrient content, to test whether (i) Arctic tadpoles could realize higher growth rates and development rates with the help of higher-quality food even when food quantity was unchanged, (ii) Arctic and Boreal tadpoles differed in their stoichiometric (and life history) response to temperature changes, (iii) higher growth rates lead to higher tadpole P content (growth rate hypothesis) and (iv) allometric scaling affects tadpole nutrient allocation.
  4. We found that especially Arctic tadpoles grew and developed faster with the help of higher-quality food and that tadpoles differed in their stoichiometric (and life history) response to temperature changes depending on region of origin (probably due to different temperature optima). There was no evidence that higher growth rates mediated the positive effect of temperature on tadpole P content. On the contrary, the covariate growth rate was negatively connected with tadpole P content (refuting the growth rate hypothesis). Lastly, tadpole P content was not related to body size, but tadpole C content was higher in larger tadpoles, probably due to increased fat storage.
  5. We conclude that temperature had a strong effect on tadpole life history, nutrient demand and stoichiometry and that this effect depended on the evolved life history.