Kin distribution of amphibian larvae in the wild

Authors

  • M. A. HALVERSON,

    1. School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University, 370 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06520,
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  • D. K. SKELLY,

    1. School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University, 370 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06520,
    2. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520,
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  • A. CACCONE

    1. School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University, 370 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06520,
    2. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520,
    3. Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, New Haven, CT 06520, USA
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M. A. Halverson, Fax: 203-432-3929; E-mail: halversa@cires.colorado.edu

Abstract

According to kin selection theory, the location of an individual with respect to its relatives can have important ramifications for its fitness. Perhaps more than any other vertebrate group, anuran amphibian larvae have been the subject of many experiments on this topic. Some anuran species have been shown in the laboratory to recognize and associate with their siblings and half-siblings. However, due to the difficulty of identifying sibships, no kinship studies with anuran larvae have been conducted in the wild. Here, we use microsatellite analysis to show that wood frog (Rana sylvatica) tadpoles were nonrandomly distributed in two ponds with respect to their relatives. In one pond, the tadpoles were significantly clumped with their siblings or half-siblings as expected from other published laboratory studies on this species. However, in another pond, the tadpoles were significantly nonrandomly dispersed from their siblings or half-siblings. This is the first example of kin repulsion of nonreproductive animals in the wild and the first time a species has been shown to display both aggregation and repulsion under different circumstances. These results suggest that kin distribution is context dependent and demonstrate the importance of testing kin selection hypotheses under natural conditions.

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