1. The gradient in pond canopy cover strongly influences freshwater species distributions. This study tested the effects of canopy cover on the performance of two species of larval anurans, a canopy cover generalist (Rana sylvatica, the wood frog) and an open-canopy specialist (R. pipiens, the leopard frog), and tested which factors co-varying with canopy cover mediate these effects.
2. A field transplant experiment demonstrated that canopy cover had negative performance effects on both species. However, leopard frogs, which grow faster than wood frogs in open-canopy ponds, were more strongly affected by closed-canopy pond conditions.
3. Closed-canopy ponds had lower temperature, dissolved oxygen (DO), and food nutritional quality as indicated by carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C : N) analysis of field-sampled food types, and of gut contents of transplanted larvae.
4. Laboratory experiments demonstrated that higher temperature and food quality but not DO substantially increased larval growth. However, only food quality increased growth rates of leopard frogs more than wood frogs.
5. The strong correlation of growth rates to gut content C : N in the field, and the similarity of growth curves as a function of resource quality in the field and laboratory, strongly suggest that resources are of primary importance in mediating intraspecific, and especially interspecific differences in performance across the canopy cover gradient.