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Oecologia August 22, 2022;
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Phenotypic variation in Xenopus laevis tadpoles from contrasting climatic regimes is the result of adaptation and plasticity.

Kruger N , Secondi J , du Preez L , Herrel A , Measey J .

Phenotypic variations between populations often correlate with climatic variables. Determining the presence of phenotypic plasticity and local adaptation of a species to different environments over a large spatial scale can provide insight on the persistence of a species across its range. Amphibians, and in particular their larvae, are good models for studies of phenotypic variation as they are especially sensitive to their immediate environment. Few studies have attempted to determine the mechanisms that drive phenotypic variation between populations of a single amphibian species over a large spatial scale especially across contrasting climatic regimes. The African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, occurs in two regions with contrasting rainfall regimes in southern Africa. We hypothesised that the phenotypic variation of life-history traits of X. laevis tadpoles emerges from a combination of plastic and genetic responses. We predicted that plasticity would allow the development of tadpoles from both regions in each environment. We also predicted that local adaptation of larval traits would drive the differentiation of reaction norms between populations and lower survival in tadpoles reared away from their home environment. We measured growth, time to metamorphosis, and survival in a reciprocal transplant experiment using outdoor mesocosms. Supporting our prediction, we found that the measured variation of all traits was explained by both adaptation and plasticity. However, the reaction norms differed between populations suggesting adaptive and asymmetric plasticity. All tadpoles experienced lower survival when translocated, but only translocated tadpoles from the winter rainfall region matched survival of local tadpoles. This has implications for the dynamics of translocated X. laevis into novel environments, especially from the winter rainfall region. Our discovery of their asymmetric capacity to overcome novel environmental conditions by phenotypic plasticity alone provides insight into their invasion success.

PubMed ID: 35996029
Article link: Oecologia

Species referenced: Xenopus laevis

References [+] :
Altwegg, Patterns of natural selection on size at metamorphosis in water frogs. 2003, Pubmed