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Early metamorphosis in common frog Rana temporaria tadpoles at risk of drying: an experimental demonstration

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Does the development rate of common frog tadpoles accelerate if their habitat dries? To study this, the water level in experimental tanks was reduced shortly before time of metamorphosis. Water level remained high in control tanks. The experiment was performed at two different tadpole densities and replicated four times, with tadpoles from different source ponds. The experimental treatment, simulating a drying pond, resulted in earlier metamorphosis while no significant difference in size at metamorphosis was found. Resources per capita decreased as a result of the decreased water level so the increase in development rate was not an effect of feeding conditions. Temperatures in the tanks were such that it is unlikely that the increased development rate was due to temperature effects. I interpret the advancement of metamorphosis as an adaptive response to the threat of drying. This response has been documented for several other anuran species. All those breed in temporary water bodies, supporting the hypothesis that the trait is an evolved adaptation for breeding in such waters.

Affiliations: 1: Dept. Animal Ecology, University of Lund, Ecology building S-223 62 Lund, Sweden, Email:


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