Plasticity of thermal tolerance and metabolism but not water loss in an invasive reed frog

04 November 2015

Phenotypic plasticity may buffer the selection pressures on organisms that inhabit novel or rapidly-changing environments. We investigated plasticity of thermal tolerance, energetic and water loss traits and their interaction with behaviour in a small-bodied, arboreal anuran (Hyperoliusmarmoratus Rapp, Hyperoliidae) undergoing rapid range expansion into the winter rainfall region of South Africa. After short-term exposure to three temperatures (acclimation treatments) commonly encountered in their historical and novel ranges, frogs exhibited a broad thermal tolerance range (mean ±s.d.: 42.1±2.9 °C) and higher plasticity in CTmax than in CTmin. Resting metabolic rate was lowest in cold-acclimated animals, while active metabolic rates were lowest in warm-acclimated frogs, likely reflecting compensation towards energy conservation. Evaporative water loss was not significantly altered by the acclimation treatments in either resting or active animals, indicating limited plasticity in this trait compared to metabolism. Our results suggest that plasticity of temperature limits and metabolism may benefit this species in variable environments such as those encountered in its expanded range. Lack of plasticity in water loss during resting and activity suggests that these frogs rely on their high cutaneous resistance and behavioural means to buffer climate variation. This study highlights the importance of synergistic interactions between physiology and behaviour in determining amphibian responses to temperature variation.