, Volume 170, Issue 3, pp 641–649 | Cite as

Seasonality determines patterns of growth and age structure over a geographic gradient in an ectothermic vertebrate

  • Mårten B. Hjernquist
  • Fredrik Söderman
  • K. Ingemar JönssonEmail author
  • Gábor Herczeg
  • Anssi Laurila
  • Juha Merilä
Population ecology - Original research


Environmental variation connected with seasonality is likely to affect the evolution of life-history strategies in ectotherms, but there is no consensus as to how important life-history traits like body size are influenced by environmental variation along seasonal gradients. We compared adult body size, skeletal growth, mean age, age at first reproduction and longevity among 11 common frog (Rana temporaria) populations sampled along a 1,600-km-long latitudinal gradient across Scandinavia. Mean age, age at first reproduction and longevity increased linearly with decreasing growth season length. Lifetime activity (i.e. the estimated number of active days during life-time) was highest at mid-latitudes and females had on average more active days throughout their lives than males. Variation in body size was due to differences in lifetime activity among populations—individuals (especially females) were largest where they had the longest cumulative activity period—as well as to differences between populations in skeletal growth rate as determined by skeletochronological analyses. Especially, males grew faster at intermediate latitudes. While life-history trait variation was strongly associated with latitude, the direction and shape of these relationships were sex- and trait-specific. These context-dependent relationships may be the result of life-history trade-offs enforced by differences in future reproductive opportunities and time constraints among the populations. Thus, seasonality appears to be an important environmental factor shaping life-history trait variation in common frogs.


Rana temporaria Body size Ectotherms Temperature Latitude 



We thank A.T. Laugen, K. Räsänen, M. Pahkala, S. Andersson, J. Elmberg, A. Järvinen, S. Karttunen, B. Lardner, J. Loman, G. Løe, G. Sahlén and R. Tramontano for help in field and laboratory and B. Rogell and J. Loehr for helpful comments on the manuscript. We also want to thank W. Blackenhorn and two anonymous reviewers for fruitful comments. The reported experiments comply with the current laws of Sweden and Finland concerning animal experimentation, and permission to collect frogs was received from the Ethical Committee for Animal Experiments in Uppsala County (C21/98). The Swedish Research Council (I.J., A.L., J.M,) and the Academy of Finland (A.L., J.M.) funded this research.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mårten B. Hjernquist
    • 1
  • Fredrik Söderman
    • 1
  • K. Ingemar Jönsson
    • 2
    Email author
  • Gábor Herczeg
    • 3
  • Anssi Laurila
    • 1
  • Juha Merilä
    • 3
  1. 1.Population and Conservation Biology/Department of Ecology and GeneticsUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.School of Education and EnvironmentKristianstad UniversityKristianstadSweden
  3. 3.Department of Biosciences, Ecological Genetics Research UnitUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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