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Reproductive mode plasticity: Aquatic and terrestrial oviposition in a treefrog

By Justin Charles Touchon and Karen Michelle Warkentin


Diversification of reproductive mode is a major theme in animal evolution. Vertebrate reproduction began in water, and terrestrial eggs evolved multiple times in fishes and amphibians and in the amniote ancestor. Because oxygen uptake from water conflicts with water retention in air, egg adaptations to one environment typically preclude development in the other. Few animals have variable reproductive modes, and no vertebrates are known to lay eggs both in water and on land. We report phenotypic plasticity of reproduction with aquatic and terrestrial egg deposition by a frog. The treefrog Dendropsophus ebraccatus, known to lay eggs terrestrially, also lays eggs in water, both at the surface and fully submerged, and chooses its reproductive mode based on the shade above a pond. Under unshaded conditions, in a disturbed habitat and in experimental mesocosms, these frogs lay most of their egg masses aquatically. The same pairs also can lay eggs terrestrially, on vegetation over water, even during a single night. Eggs can survive in both aquatic and terrestrial environments, and variable mortality risks in each may make oviposition plasticity adaptive. Phylogenetically, D. ebraccatus branches from the basal node in a clade of terrestrially breeding species, nested within a larger lineage of aquatic-breeding frogs. Reproductive plasticity in D. ebraccatus may represent a retained ancestral state intermediate in the evolution of terrestrial reproduction

Topics: Biological Sciences
Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:2396680
Provided by: PubMed Central
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