Polar Biology

, Volume 35, Issue 10, pp 1505–1513 | Cite as

Sex differences in age structure, growth rate and body size of common frogs Rana temporaria in the subarctic

  • Cécile PatrelleEmail author
  • Mårten B. Hjernquist
  • Anssi Laurila
  • Fredrik Söderman
  • Juha Merilä
Original Paper


The thermal environment and length of the activity season are important factors in shaping life-history trait variation in ectotherms. Many ectothermic vertebrates living at high latitudes or altitudes tend to be larger and older than their conspecifics living at lower latitudes or altitudes. However, detailed data on age, body size and growth variation—and how they may differ between males and females—are still scarce, especially from extreme high-latitude environments. We studied growth (body length increment), age and size structure of common frogs (Rana temporaria) in subarctic Finland (69°04′N) by applying skeletochronological methods to individually marked adults (n = 169) captured and recaptured between 1999 and 2003. We found that breeding males were on average younger (mean = 8.5 years) than females (11.9 years) and that males started reproducing earlier (≥3–4 years of age) than females (>4–5 years). The oldest encountered individual was an 18-year-old female, which to our knowledge is the oldest wild common frog ever reported. Females were on average larger (mean body length = 76.6 mm) than males (70.7 mm), and this appeared to be mainly due to their older age as compared to males. While body length increased and growth rate decreased with age in both sexes, growth rate declined significantly faster with age in males than in females. The latter finding provides a proximate explanation for the observation that even after accounting for age differences among sexes (females > males), females were longer than males.


Age Body size Longevity Rana temporaria Skeletochronology Subarctic 



We thank University of Helsinki, LAPBIAT project, the Swedish Research Council and Academy of Finland for financial support during the time the data for this study were collected. Thanks are also due to various people who helped collecting the data, especially Jussi Alho, Gabor Herczeg, Oula Kalttopää, Kirsi Kähkönen, Karoliina Räsänen and Mattias Sterner. Comments by Johan Elmberg and anonymous reviewers improved an earlier draft of the manuscript. Jacquelin DeFaveri kindly corrected the English, and Peter Kullberg translated some important references. We are also grateful for the logistic support provided by the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station (University of Helsinki).

Supplementary material

300_2012_1190_MOESM1_ESM.doc (43 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 41 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cécile Patrelle
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mårten B. Hjernquist
    • 2
  • Anssi Laurila
    • 2
  • Fredrik Söderman
    • 2
  • Juha Merilä
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecological Genetics Research Unit, Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Population and Conservation Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Evolutionary Biology CentreUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

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