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Climatic adaptation in an isolated and genetically impoverished amphibian population

Authors

  • Germán Orizaola,

  • María Quintela,

  • Anssi Laurila


G. Orizaola (german.orizaola@ebc.uu.se) and A. Laurila, Population and Conservation Biology/Dept of Ecology and Evolution, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala Univ., Norbyvägen 18D, SE-75236 Uppsala, Sweden. – M. Quintela, Population and Conservation Biology/Dept of Ecology and Evolution, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala Univ., Norbyvãgen 18D, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden and Área de Ecología, Fac. de Ciencias, Univ. de la Coruña, Campus A Zapateira s/n, ES-15071 La Coruña, Spain.

Abstract

The capacity of populations to respond adaptively to environmental change is essential for their persistence. Isolated populations often harbour reduced genetic variation, which is predicted to decrease adaptive potential, and can be detrimental under the current scenarios of global change. In this study, we examined climatic adaptation in larval life history traits in the pool frog Rana lessonae along a latitudinal gradient across the northern distribution area of the species, paying special attention to the isolated and genetically impoverished fringe populations in central Sweden. Larvae from eight populations within three geographic areas (Poland, Latvia and Sweden) were reared under three temperatures (19, 22 and 26°C) in a common garden laboratory experiment. We found clear evidence for latitudinal adaptation in R. lessonae populations, larvae from higher latitudes growing and developing faster than low-latitude ones. Larvae from the Swedish populations were able to compensate for the effects of cooler temperatures and a shorter growth season with genetically higher growth and development rates (i.e. countergradient variation) in the two higher temperature treatments, but there was no difference among the populations at the lowest temperature treatment, which is likely to be close to the temperature limiting growth in R. lessonae. Our results demonstrate that isolated and genetically impoverished populations can be locally adapted, and identify the Swedish fringe populations as a significant conservation unit adapted to the northern environmental conditions.

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