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Oecologia

, Volume 151, Issue 4, pp 593–604 | Cite as

Environmental stress increases skeletal fluctuating asymmetry in the moor frog Rana arvalis

  • Fredrik Söderman
  • Stefan van Dongen
  • Susanna Pakkasmaa
  • Juha Merilä
Population Ecology

Abstract

Whether fluctuating asymmetry (FA) provides a useful metric indicator of the degree of environmental stress experienced by populations is still a contentious issue. We investigated whether the degree of FA in skeletal elements is useful in elucidating the degree of environmental stress experienced by frog populations, and further, tested the proposition that a trait’s sensitivity to stress—as reflected in the degree of FA—is related to the degree of directional selection experienced by the given trait. We compared the degree of FA in four bilateral skeletal elements of male and female moor frogs (Rana arvalis) originating from low (acidified) and neutral pH populations. While the degree of uncorrected FA was unrelated to the degree of acidity, the growth rate and age of the individuals, the size-corrected FA was significantly higher in low than in neutral pH populations and decreased with individual ages and growth rates. In addition, both measures of FA were significantly higher in males and in particular in traits presumably under high sexual selection as indicated by the degree of sexual size dimorphism. All in all, the results indicate that individuals from acidified localities are smaller, younger and exhibit a significantly higher degree of FA than individuals from neutral pH populations. These results constitute the first assessment of FA in amphibians and suggest that the degree of FA in skeletal traits can be a useful indicator of the degree of environmental stress experienced by amphibian populations.

Keywords

Amphibians Acidification Developmental stability FA Environmental stress 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Anssi Laurila, Katja Räsänen and all other people who have helped us in the course of this work. In particular, thanks are due to Peter Mortensen and Jorma Uusitalo at the Swedish Natural History Museum for help in preparation of the skeletons and to Magnus Svensson and Mattias Sterner for doing all the measurements and preparations. The collection was performed with a licence from the Swedish Environmental Protection agency (409-1106-11). Our research was supported by the Swedish Natural Science Research Council, Swedish Forest and Agricultural Science Research Council, Oscar and Lili Lamm Foundation, Nils von Hoffsten Foundation, University of Helsinki Science Foundation and the Academy of Finland.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fredrik Söderman
    • 1
  • Stefan van Dongen
    • 2
  • Susanna Pakkasmaa
    • 1
    • 3
  • Juha Merilä
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Population Biology and Conservation Biology, Evolutionary Biology CentreUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Group of Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium
  3. 3.Institute of Freshwater ResearchSwedish Board of FisheriesDrottningholmSweden
  4. 4.Ecological Genetics Research Unit, Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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