Does dietary β-carotene influence ontogenetic colour change in the southern corroboree frog?

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Journal of Experimental Biology


Ontogenetic colour change occurs in a diversity of vertebrate taxa and may be closely linked to dietary changes throughout development. In various species, red, orange and yellow colouration can be enhanced by the consumption of carotenoids. However, a paucity of long-term dietary manipulation studies means that little is known of the role of individual carotenoid compounds in ontogenetic colour change. We know even less about the influence of individual compounds at different doses (dose effects). The present study aimed to use a large dietary manipulation experiment to investigate the effect of dietary β-carotene supplementation on colouration in southern corroboree frogs (Pseudophryne corroboree) during early post-metamorphic development. Frogs were reared on four dietary treatments with four β-carotene concentrations (0, 1, 2 and 3 mg g−1), with frog colour measured every 8 weeks for 32 weeks. β-Carotene was not found to influence colouration at any dose. However, colouration was found to become more conspicuous over time, including in the control treatment. Moreover, all frogs expressed colour maximally at a similar point in development. These results imply that, for our study species, (1) β-carotene may contribute little or nothing to colouration, (2) frogs can manufacture their own colour, (3) colour development is a continual process and (4) there may have been selection for synchronised development of colour expression. We discuss the potential adaptive benefit of ontogenetic colour change in P. corroboree. More broadly, we draw attention to the potential for adaptive developmental synchrony in the expression of colouration in aposematic species.

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Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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