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Keywords:

  • developmental trade-offs;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • swimming ability;
  • Rana temporaria;
  • life history

Abstract

Where organisms undergo radical changes in habitat during ontogeny, dramatic phenotypic reshaping may be required. However, physiological and functional interrelationships may constrain the extent to which an individual's phenotype can be equally well adapted to their habitat throughout the life cycle. The phenotypic response of tadpoles to the presence of a predator has been reported for several species of anuran but the potential post-metamorphic consequences have rarely been considered. We reared common frog Rana temporaria tadpoles in the presence or absence of a larval odonate predator, Aeshna juncea, and examined the consequences of the resulting phenotypic adjustment in the aquatic larval stage of the life cycle for the terrestrial juvenile phenotype. In early development tadpoles developed deeper tail fins and muscles in response to the predator and, in experimental trials, swam further than those reared in the absence of a predator. While the difference in swimming ability remained significant throughout the larval period, by the onset of metamorphosis we could no longer detect any differences in the morphological parameters measured. The corresponding post-metamorphic phenotypes also did not initially differ in terms of morphology. At 12 weeks post-metamorphosis, however, froglets that developed from predator-exposed tadpoles swam more slowly and less far than those that developed from tadpoles reared in the absence of predators, the opposite trend to that observed in the larval stage of the life cycle, and had narrower femurs. These results suggest that there may be long-term costs for subsequent life-history stages of tailoring the larval phenotype to prevailing environmental conditions.