, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 360-369

The genetic basis of altitudinal variation in the wood frog Rana sylvatica II. An experimental analysis of larval development

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Summary

The variation in larval developmental patterns in the wood frog, Rana sylvatica, along an elevation gradient of 1,000 m was experimentally studied. Larval populations at high elevation ponds had lower growth rates, developmental rates and were larger at all stages (including metamorphic climax) than larval populations developing in low elevation ponds. There was considerable variation among ponds within each elevation in both the length of the larval period and size at metamorphic climax. Reciprocal transplant experiments and controlled laboratory experiments revealed that most of the observed variation between high and low elevation populations could be explained by the effects of temperature induction during ontogeny. Significant genetic differences in growth rates and non-genetic maternal effects on developmental rates between larvae of mountain origin and lowland origin were also demonstrated. Selection in both environments has acted to minimize the prevailing environmental effect of pond temperature on developmental rates, but has accentuated the prevailing environmental effects on larval body size. As a consequence mountain larvae were capable of completing metamorphosis sooner and at a larger size in all environments than lowland larvae.