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Life history trait differences between a lake and a stream-dwelling population of the Pyrenean brook newt (Calotriton asper)

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The Pyrenean brook newt (Calotriton asper) is a salamandrid that mostly lives in fast running and cold mountain-streams, although some populations are also found in lakes. In the present work, we report in detail on the occurrence of facultative paedomorphosis traits in a population from a Pyrenean high altitude lake. We compare its morphology, life history traits and mitochondrial DNA variation with a nearby lotic metamorphic population. Our results indicate that the lacustrine newts are smaller and present a less developed sexual dimorphism, smooth skin, and that 53% of the adults retain gills at different degrees of development, but not gill slits. Although both populations and sexes have the same age at sexual maturity (four years), the lacustrine population presents higher longevity (12 and 9 years for males and females, respectively) than the one living in the stream (8 and 9 years). The variation on the climatic conditions at altitudinal scale is probably the main cause of the differences in life history traits found between the two populations. The food availability, which could to be limiting in the lacustrine population, is another factor that can potentially affect body size. These results are congruent with the significant mitochondrial DNA genetic isolation between populations, probably a consequence of the lack of juvenile dispersal. We found low cytochrome b variability and significant genetic structuring in the lake population that is very remarkably considering the short distance to the nearby stream population and the whole species’ pattern. We suggest that a bottleneck effect and/or phenotypic plasticity may have resulted in the appearance of a paedomorphic morph in the lake.

Affiliations: 1: 1Escola Superior d’Enginyeria Agrària, Departament de Producció Animal (Fauna Silvestre), Universitat de Lleida, Av. Rovira Roure 191, 25198 Lleida, Spain; 2: 2Àrea d’Herpetologia, Museu de Granollers, Ciències Naturals, Francesc Macià 51, 08402 Granollers, Spain; 3: 3Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (CSIC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 8003 Barcelona, Spain


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