Anuran developmental plasticity loss: the cost of constant salinity stress
In animals with a complex life cycle, changes in biotic and abiotic conditions during development can alter growth and maturation rates, causing carry-over effects in postmetamorphic phenotypes. In anurans, this developmental plasticity can result in a trade-off between length of larval period and body size at metamorphosis in stressful environments. Secondary salinisation has been identified as a substantial stressor to amphibians; however, little is known about how salinity-induced developmental plasticity differs between anuran populations. We examined differences in survival, time to metamorphosis, size at metamorphosis (mass and snout-vent length) and body condition at metamorphosis in response to elevated salinity in three populations of the brown tree frog (Litoria ewingii). Significant differences in size at metamorphosis between salinity treatments were observed in tadpoles sourced from freshwater wetlands and ephemeral wetlands, with tadpoles showing a reduced mass and snout-vent length at metamorphosis in the higher-salinity treatment. There were no significant differences in metamorphic traits between salinity treatments in tadpoles sourced from a consistently brackish wetland, suggesting either an erosion of developmental plasticity in response to elevated salinity, or the magnitude of salinity required to alter developmental traits is higher in this population. Our results indicate that environmental conditions of source populations need to be considered when studying life-history adaptations in response to environmental change.
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