Effects of hydroperiod duration on developmental plasticity in tiger frog (Hoplobatrachus chinensis) tadpoles
Authors: Xiao-Li FAN, Zhi-Hua LIN, Jie WEI
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While developmental plasticity can facilitate evolutionary diversification of organisms, the effects of water levels as an environmental pressure on tiger frogs remains unclear. This study clarifies the relationship by studying the responses of tiger frog (Hoplobatrachus chinensis) tadpoles to simulated hydroperiods (i.e., constant low water levels, constant high water levels, increasing water levels, decreasing water levels, rapid changes in water levels and gradual fluctuations in water levels) in a laboratory setting. ANOVA analysis showed that none of the water level treatments had any significant effect on the total length, body mass, or developmental stages of H. chinensis tadpoles half way through development (11 days old). Tadpoles raised in rapidly fluctuating water levels had protracted metamorphosis, whereas tadpoles raised under low and gradually fluctuating water levels had shortened metamorphosis. None of the water level treatments had a significant effect on the snout-vent length (SVL) or body mass of H. chinensis tadpoles at Gosner stage 42, or on the body mass of tadpoles at Gosner stage 45. However, the tadpoles raised in high levels and rapidly fluctuating water levels, significantly larger SVL at Gosner stage 45, while ones under gradually fluctuating water levels had smaller SVL than the other groups. Time to metamorphosis was positively correlated with body size (SVL) at metamorphosis in H. chinensis tadpoles. H. chinensis tadpoles under constant low water level had the highest mortality rate among all the treatments (G-test). Moreover, ANOVA and ACNOVA (with body length as the covariate) indicated that water levels had no significant effect on either the morphology (i.e. head length, head width, forelimb length, hindlimb length and body width) or the jumping ability of juvenile H. chinensis. These results suggest that the observed accelerated metamorphosis and high mortality of H. chinensis tadpoles under decreasing water level treatment was driven by density-induced physical interactions among increasing conspecifics.