Body size variation of four latitudinally-separated populations of a toad species: age and growth rate as the proximate determinants


Correspondence: Xin Lu, Department of Zoology, College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China. Email:


Age and growth rate are critical parameters determining the body size of adult anurans, which grow indeterminately. Therefore, evaluating their relative importance and selective pressures acting on them may help to explain variation in body size of anurans across geographical populations. Based on the data on body size and skeletochronological age of 4 Asiatic toad (Bufo gargarizans) populations that are widely separated in latitude, the present study showed that toads at the northern extremity of the range were the oldest, on average, and grew relatively fast, toads at the southern end of the range were relatively old but grew fastest, whereas mid-latitude toads were intermediate in both traits. These results indicated that relative contributions of age and growth rate to body size differed among populations. From a life history perspective, greater age attained by toads at higher latitudes should result from delayed maturation, and faster growth from an adaptive response to strong seasonal time constraints; in contrast, selective pressures on the 2 parameters at lower latitudes might be associated, respectively, with low adult death rates and longer favorable growing seasons.