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Effect of habitat drying on the development of the Eastern spadefoot toad (Pelobates syriacus) tadpoles

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image of Amphibia-Reptilia

Amphibians exhibit plasticity in the timing of metamorphosis, and tadpoles of many species respond to pond drying by accelerating their development. In the present study we investigated the phenotypic plasticity of the developmental response to water volume reduction in tadpoles of Eastern spadefoot toad Pelobates syriacus. The response of tadpoles to the simulated drying conditions was evaluated by gradually reducing the water level in the experimental containers under controlled laboratory conditions. Four water level treatments were used: constant high, slow decrease, fast decrease and constant low level. We tested if (i) tadpoles can speed up their development in a drying aquatic habitat, and (ii) if the accelerated development causes a reduced body size at metamorphosis. Our results showed that P. syriacus tadpoles were able to respond to pond drying by speeding up their metamorphosis and that metamorphosis was not influenced by water level, but by water level decrease rate. The accelerated development caused by the decreasing water level resulted in smaller body size at metamorphosis. The smallest size at metamorphosis was in tadpoles raised in constant low water level treatments and was probably induced by the crowding effect. We compared our results to similar studies which show that the response of the Eastern spadefoot toad tadpoles to pond drying is less impressive, especially if compared to the response of the North American spadefoot toads inhabiting desert environments.

Affiliations: 1: Romanian Ornithological Society, 49 Mihail Kogălniceanu Blvd., 050108, Bucharest, Romania;, Email:; 2: “Ovidius” University Constanţa, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, 1 Aleea Universităţii, 900470, Constanţa, Romania


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