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Mechanisms and consequences of developmental acceleration in tadpoles responding to pond drying

By Iván Gómez-Mestre, S. R. Kulkarni and D.R. Bulchholz


Many amphibian species exploit temporary or even ephemeral aquatic habitats for reproduction by maximising larval growth under benign conditions but accelerating development to rapidly undergo metamorphosis when at risk of desiccation from pond drying. Here we determine mechanisms enabling developmental acceleration in response to decreased water levels in western spadefoot toad tadpoles ( Pelobates cultripes ), a species with long larval periods and large size at metamorphosis but with a high degree of developmental plasticity. We found that P. cultripes tadpoles can shorten their larval period by an average of 30% in response to reduced water levels. We show that such developmental acceleration was achieved via increased endogenous levels of corticosterone and thyroid hormone, which act synergistically to achieve metamorphosis, and also by increased expression of the thyroid hormone receptor TRÂ, which increases tissue sensitivity and responsivity to thyroid hormone. However, developmental acceleration had morphological and physiological consequences. In addition to resulting in smaller juveniles with proportionately shorter limbs, tadpoles exposed to decreased water levels incurred oxidative stress, indicated by increased activity of the antioxidant enzymes catalase, superoxide dismutase, and gluthatione peroxidase. Such increases were apparently sufficient to neutralise the oxidative damage caused by presumed increased metabolic activity. Thus, developmental acceleration allows spadefoot toad tadpoles to evade drying ponds, but it comes at the expense of reduced size at metamorphosis and increased oxidative stressPeer reviewe

Publisher: 'Public Library of Science (PLoS)'
Year: 2013
DOI identifier: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084266
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Digital.CSIC

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