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Transgenerational effects and impact of compensatory responses to changes in breeding phenology on antipredator defenses

Orizaola, Germán, Richter‐Boix, Alex, Laurila, Anssi
Ecology 2016 v.97 no.9 pp. 2470-2478
Rana, breeding, climate change, frogs, hatching, life history, parents, phenology, predation, predators, progeny, rearing, risk, tadpoles, tail
As organisms living in temperate environments often have only a short time window for growth and reproduction, their life‐history strategies are expected to be influenced by these time constraints. Parents may alter the pace of offspring life‐history as a response to changes in breeding phenology. However, the responses to changes in time constraints must be balanced with those against other stressors, such as predation, one of the strongest and more ubiquitous selective factors in nature. Here, after experimentally modifying the timing of breeding and hatching in the moor frog (Rana arvalis), we studied how compensatory responses to delayed breeding and hatching affect antipredator strategies in amphibian larvae. We examined the activity patterns, morphology and life‐history responses in tadpoles exposed to different combinations of breeding and hatching delays in the presence and absence of predators. We found clear evidence of adaptive transgenerational effects since tadpoles from delayed breeding treatments increased growth and development independently of predation risk. The presence of predators reduced tadpole activity, tadpoles from delayed breeding treatments maintaining lower activity than non‐delayed ones also in the absence of predators. Tadpoles reared with predators developed deeper tails and bodies, however, tadpoles from breeding delay treatments had reduced morphological defenses as compared to non‐delayed individuals. No significant effects of hatching delay were detected in this study. Our study reveals that amphibian larvae exposed to breeding delay develop compensatory life‐history responses even under predation risk, but these responses trade‐off with the development of morphological antipredator defenses. These results suggest that under strong time constraints organisms are selected to develop fast growth and development responses, and rely on lower activity rates as their main antipredator defense. Examining how responses to changes in phenology affect species interactions is highly relevant for better understanding ecological responses to climate change.