Eye size and investment in frogs and toads correlate with adult habitat, activity pattern and breeding ecology.
ABSTRACT: Frogs and toads (Amphibia: Anura) display diverse ecologies and behaviours, which are often correlated with visual capacity in other vertebrates. Additionally, anurans exhibit a broad range of relative eye sizes, which have not previously been linked to ecological factors in this group. We measured relative investment in eye size and corneal size for 220 species of anurans representing all 55 currently recognized families and tested whether they were correlated with six natural history traits hypothesized to be associated with the evolution of eye size. Anuran eye size was significantly correlated with habitat, with notable decreases in eye investment among fossorial, subfossorial and aquatic species. Relative eye size was also associated with mating habitat and activity pattern. Compared to other vertebrates, anurans have relatively large eyes for their body size, indicating that vision is probably of high importance. Our study reveals the role that ecology and behaviour may have played in the evolution of anuran visual systems and highlights the usefulness of museum specimens, and importance of broad taxonomic sampling, for interpreting macroecological patterns.
Project description:The composition and diversity of biotic assemblages is regulated by a complex interplay of environmental features. We investigated the influence of climate and the aquatic habitat conditions on the larval traits and the structure of amphibian larval guilds in north-western Africa. We classified the species into morphological groups, based on external traits: body shape, size, and the relative positions of the eyes and oral apparatus. We characterized the guild diversity based on species richness and interspecific phylogenetic/functional relationships. The larvae of the urodeles were classified as typical of either the stream or pond type, and the anurans as typical of either the lentic-benthic or lentic-nektonic type. The variations in the body shapes of both urodeles and anurans were associated with the type of aquatic habitat (lentic vs lotic) and the types of predators present. Most of the urodele guilds (98.9%) contained a single species, whereas the anuran guilds were usually more diverse. Both the phylogenetic and functional diversity of the anuran guilds were positively influenced by the size of the aquatic habitat and negatively by aridity. In anurans, the benthic and nektonic morphological types frequently co-occurred, possibly influenced by their opportunistic breeding strategies.
Project description:Background. Frogs are generalist predators of a wide range of typically small prey items. But descriptions of dietary items regularly include other anurans, such that frogs are considered to be among the most important of anuran predators. However, the only existing hypothesis for the inclusion of anurans in the diet of post-metamorphic frogs postulates that it happens more often in bigger frogs. Moreover, this hypothesis has yet to be tested. Methods. We reviewed the literature on frog diet in order to test the size hypothesis and determine whether there are other putative explanations for anurans in the diet of post-metamorphic frogs. In addition to size, we recorded the habitat, the number of other sympatric anuran species, and whether or not the population was invasive. We controlled for taxonomic bias by including the superfamily in our analysis. Results. Around one fifth of the 355 records included anurans as dietary items of populations studied, suggesting that frogs eating anurans is not unusual. Our data showed a clear taxonomic bias with ranids and pipids having a higher proportion of anuran prey than other superfamilies. Accounting for this taxonomic bias, we found that size in addition to being invasive, local anuran diversity, and habitat produced a model that best fitted our data. Large invasive frogs that live in forests with high anuran diversity are most likely to have a higher proportion of anurans in their diet. Conclusions. We confirm the validity of the size hypothesis for anurophagy, but show that there are additional significant variables. The circumstances under which frogs eat frogs are likely to be complex, but our data may help to alert conservationists to the possible dangers of invading frogs entering areas with threatened anuran species.
Project description:Analysing how seasonality shapes abundance patterns fosters understanding of the processes related to amphibian community assemblies. In this study we analyse the relationship between local seasonal patterns of abundance within the anuran community of the Monte Zerpa Cloud Forest, Mérida Mountain Range (Cordillera de Mérida), in the Venezuelan Andes. We hypothesized that variation in precipitation, temperature, and relative humidity affects the temporal abundance patterns of anurans. Data collection was performed through nocturnal biweekly inspections from 2002 to 2003. Air temperature, relative humidity, and monthly precipitation were considered as variables of climatic seasonality. Generalized linear models were used to evaluate the effect of climatic variables on anuran abundance across seasons. Overall, 542 individuals and four anuran species were recorded in stream tributaries only. The local anuran community was comprised of Hyalinobatrachium duranti, Hyloscirtus platydactylus, Hyloscirtus jahni, and Pristimantis vanadisae. The most abundant species were H. duranti (288 individuals) and H. platydactylus (145 individuals), representing 53% and 27% of the total anuran abundance, respectively. Differences in abundance between species were observed. Although the total abundance of anurans was higher during the low precipitation season, no significant differences between the two seasons were detected. The variation in anuran abundance was explained by relative humidity and temperature. Our results suggest that the highest abundance of anurans can be expected when temperatures reach favourable levels (15- 17°C), relative humidity increases, and precipitation remains constant.
Project description:Frogs and toads (anurans) are widely used to study many biological processes. Yet, few anuran genomes have been sequenced, limiting research on these organisms. Here, we produce a draft genome for the Mexican spadefoot toad, Spea multiplicata, which is a member of an unsequenced anuran clade. Atypically for amphibians, spadefoots inhabit deserts. Consequently, they possess many unique adaptations, including rapid growth and development, prolonged dormancy, phenotypic (developmental) plasticity, and adaptive, interspecies hybridization. We assembled and annotated a 1.07 Gb Sp. multiplicata genome containing 19,639 genes. By comparing this sequence to other available anuran genomes, we found gene amplifications in the gene families of nodal, hyas3, and zp3 in spadefoots, and obtained evidence that anuran genome size differences are partially driven by variability in intergenic DNA content. We also used the genome to identify genes experiencing positive selection and to study gene expression levels in spadefoot hybrids relative to their pure-species parents. Completion of the Sp. multiplicata genome advances efforts to determine the genetic bases of spadefoots' unique adaptations and enhances comparative genomic research in anurans.
Project description:We evaluated five non-mutually exclusive hypotheses driving the biogeographic regions of anuran species in the Amazonia. We overlaid extent-of-occurrence maps for anurans 50?×?50?km cells to generate a presence-absence matrix. This matrix was subjected to a cluster analysis to identify the pattern and number of biogeographic regions for the dataset. Then, we used multinomial logistic regression models and deviance partitioning to explore the relative importance of contemporary and historical climate variables, topographic complexity, riverine barriers and vegetation structure in explaining the biogeographic regions identified. We found seven biogeographic regions for anurans in the Amazonia. The major rivers in the Amazonia made the largest contribution to explaining the variability in anuran biogeographic regions, followed by climate variables and topography. The barrier effect seems to be strong for some rivers, such as the Amazon and Madeira, but other Amazonia rivers appear to not be effective barriers. Furthermore, climate and topographical variables provide an environmental gradient driving the species richness and anuran range-size distributions. Therefore, our results provide a spatially explicit framework that could be used to address conservation and management issues of anuran diversity for the largest tropical forests in the world.
Project description:The Cordillera Vilcanota in southern Peru is the second largest glacierized range in the tropics and home to one of the largest high-alpine lakes, Sibinacocha (4,860 m). Here, Telmatobius marmoratus (marbled water frog), Rhinella spinulosa (Andean toad), and Pleurodema marmoratum (marbled four-eyed frog) have expanded their range vertically within the past century to inhabit newly formed ponds created by ongoing deglaciation. These anuran populations, geographically among the highest (5,200-5,400 m) recorded globally, are being impacted by the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), and the disease it causes, chytridiomycosis. In this study, we report results from over a decade of monitoring these three anuran species, their habitat, and Bd infection status. Our observations reveal dynamic changes in habitat including ongoing rapid deglaciation (18.4 m/year widening of a corridor between retreating glaciers from 2005 to 2015), new pond formation, changes in vegetation in amphibian habitat, and widespread occurrence of Bd in amphibians in seven sites. Three of these sites have tested positive for Bd over a 9- to 12-year period. In addition, we observed a widespread reduction in T. marmoratus encounters in the Vilcanota in 2008, 2009, and 2012, while encounters increased in 2013 and 2015. Despite the rapid and dynamic changes in habitat under a warming climate, continued presence of Bd in the environment for over a decade, and a reduction in one of three anuran species, we document that these anurans continue to breed and survive in this high Andean environment. High variability in anuran encounters across sites and plasticity in these populations across habitats, sites, and years are all factors that could favor repopulation postdecline. Preserving the connectivity of wetlands in the Cordillera Vilcanota is therefore essential in ensuring that anurans continue to breed and adapt as climate change continues to reshape the environment.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>The evolution of sexual size dimorphism (SSD) is likely constrained by life history. Using phylogenetic comparative methods, we examined correlations between SSD among anurans and their life history traits, including egg size, clutch size, mating combat, and parental care behaviour. We used sexual dimorphism index (SDI = Body-size(female) /Body-size(male) -1) as the measurement for SSD. Body size, life history and phylogenetic data were collected from published literature. Data were analysed at two levels: all anuran species and within individual families.<h4>Results</h4>Female-biased SSD is the predominant form in anurans. SSD decreases along with the body size increase, following the prediction of Rensch's rule, but the magnitude of decrease is very small. More importantly, female body size is positively correlated with both fecundity related traits, egg size and clutch size, and SDI is also positively correlated with clutch size, suggesting fecundity advantage may have driven the evolution of female body size and consequently leads to the evolution of female-biased SSD. Furthermore, the presence of parental care, male parental care in particular, is negatively correlated with SDI, indicating that species with parental care tend to have a smaller SDI. A negative correlation between clutch size and parental care further suggests that parental care likely reduces the fecundity selection pressure on female body size. On the other hand, there is a general lack of significant correlation between SDI and the presence of male combat behaviour, which is surprising and contradictory to previous studies.<h4>Conclusions</h4>We find clear evidence to support the 'fecundity advantage hypothesis' and the 'parental care hypothesis' in shaping SSD in anurans. Nevertheless, the relationships of both parental care and combat behaviour to the evolution of SSD are complex in anurans and the extreme diversity of life history traits may have masked some potential interesting relationships. Our study represents the most comprehensive study of SSD in anurans to date.
Project description:BACKGROUND: In the Neotropics, nearly 35% of amphibian species are threatened by habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and habitat split; anuran species with different developmental modes respond to habitat disturbance in different ways. This entails broad-scale strategies for conserving biodiversity and advocates for the identification of high conservation-value regions that are significant in a global or continental context and that could underpin more detailed conservation assessments towards such areas. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We identified key ecoregion sets for anuran conservation using an algorithm that favors complementarity (beta-diversity) among ecoregions. Using the WWF's Wildfinder database, which encompasses 700 threatened anuran species in 119 Neotropical ecoregions, we separated species into those with aquatic larvae (AL) or terrestrial development (TD), as this life-history trait affects their response to habitat disturbance. The conservation target of 100% of species representation was attained with a set of 66 ecoregions. Among these, 30 were classified as priority both for species with AL and TD, 26 were priority exclusively for species with AL, and 10 for species with TD only. Priority ecoregions for both developmental modes are concentrated in the Andes and in Mesoamerica. Ecoregions important for conserving species with AL are widely distributed across the Neotropics. When anuran life histories were ignored, species with AL were always underrepresented in priority sets. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The inclusion of anuran developmental modes in prioritization analyses resulted in more comprehensive coverage of priority ecoregions-especially those essential for species that require an aquatic habitat for their reproduction-when compared to usual analyses that do not consider this life-history trait. This is the first appraisal of the most important regions for conservation of threatened Neotropical anurans. It is also a first endeavor including anuran life-history traits in priority area-selection for conservation, with a clear gain in comprehensiveness of the selection process.
Project description:The spatial distribution of species has long sparked interest among ecologists and biogeographers, increasingly so in studies of species responses to climate change. However, field studies on spatial patterns of distribution, useful to inform conservation actions at local scales, are still lacking for many regions, especially the tropics. We studied elevational trends and species-area relationships among anurans in wetland habitats within Volcanoes National Park (VNP) in Rwanda, part of the biodiverse Albertine Rift region. In VNP, wetlands are key sites for anuran reproduction, and anurans are likely threatened by wetland desiccation which has occurred for the last few decades. Between 2012 and 2017, we sampled anuran communities in ten VNP wetlands located along an elevational gradient of c. 600 m (from 2,546 to 3,188 m a.s.l.) and found at least eight species, including at least two Albertine Rift Endemics. We show that species richness, diversity, and abundance likely decline with a decrease in wetland size and with an increase in elevation, though additional sampling (e.g., at night) might be needed to derive definite conclusions. Larger wetlands at lower elevations contained most species and individuals, which indicates the potential threat of wetland size reduction (through desiccation) for anuran conservation. However, we also found that wetlands differed in species composition and that some species (e.g., Sclerophrys kisoloensis) were likely restricted in distribution to only a few of the smaller wetlands-suggesting that the conservation of each individual wetland should be prioritized, regardless of size. We propose that all wetlands in VNP require additional conservation measures, which should be based on knowledge gathered through long-term monitoring of anuran communities and research on drivers of wetland decline. Only such extended research will allow us to understand the response of anurans in VNP to threats such as climate change and wetland desiccation.
Project description:Age- and size-related life-history traits of anuran amphibians are thought to vary systematically with latitude and altitude. Because the available data base is strongly biased towards temperate-zone species, we provide new estimates on eight afrotropical Reed Frog species. A meta-analysis of the demographic traits in 44 tropical anuran species aims to test for the predicted clinal variation and to contrast results with variation detected in temperate-zone species. The small-sized reed frogs reach sexual maturity during the first or second year of life, but longevity does not exceed three to four years. Latitudinal effects on demographic life-history traits are not detectable in tropical anurans, and altitudinal effects are limited to a slight size reduction at higher elevations. Common features of anuran life-history in the tropics are early sexual maturation at small size and low longevity resulting in low lifetime fecundity. This pattern contrasts with that found in temperate-zone anurans which mature later at larger size and grow considerably older yielding greater lifetime fecundity than in the tropics. Latitudinal and altitudinal contraction of the yearly activity period shape the evolution of life-history traits in the temperate region, while trait variation in the tropics seems to be driven by distinct, not yet identified selective forces.