Reassessment of the environmental mechanisms controlling developmental polyphenism in spadefoot toad tadpoles
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- Storz, B.L. Oecologia (2004) 141: 402. doi:10.1007/s00442-004-1672-6
Identifying the environmental mechanism(s) controlling developmental polyphenism is the first step in gaining a mechanistic and evolutionary understanding of the factors responsible for its expression and evolution. Tadpoles of the spadefoot toad Spea multiplicata can display either a “typical” omnivorous or a carnivorous phenotype. Exogenous thyroxine and feeding on conspecific tadpoles have been accepted as triggers for development of the carnivorous phenotype on the basis of a series of studies in the early 1990s. I repeated the thyroxine and conspecific-feeding assays and demonstrated that neither exogenous thyroxine nor feeding on conspecifics induces the carnivorous phenotype. Previous researchers used simple ratio statistics to argue that field-collected carnivores and thyroxine-treated tadpoles are similar, and my results supported these claims if I used the same simple ratio methodology. However, investigation of trait developmental trajectories and allometries for field-collected carnivores and thyroxine-treated and conspecific-fed tadpoles show that these phenotypes are profoundly different.