Does habitat fragmentation reduce fitness and adaptability? A case study of the common frog (Rana temporaria)


Juha Merilä, Fax: +358-9-191 57 694; E-mail:


Studies examining the effects of anthropogenic habitat fragmentation on both neutral and adaptive genetic variability are still scarce. We compared tadpole fitness-related traits (viz. survival probability and body size) among populations of the common frog (Rana temporaria) from fragmented (F) and continuous (C) habitats that differed significantly in population sizes (C > F) and genetic diversity (C > F) in neutral genetic markers. Using data from common garden experiments, we found a significant positive relationship between the mean values of the fitness related traits and the amount of microsatellite variation in a given population. While genetic differentiation in neutral marker loci (FST) tended to be more pronounced in the fragmented than in the continuous habitat, genetic differentiation in quantitative traits (QST) exceeded that in neutral marker traits in the continuous habitat (i.e. QST > FST), but not in the fragmented habitat (i.e. QST ≈ FST). These results suggest that the impact of random genetic drift relative to natural selection was higher in the fragmented landscape where populations were small, and had lower genetic diversity and fitness as compared to populations in the more continuous landscape. The findings highlight the potential importance of habitat fragmentation in impairing future adaptive potential of natural populations.