Antipredator defenses along a latitudinal gradient in Rana temporaria

A Laurila, B Lindgren, Ane Laugen

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    Antipredator defenses are expected to decrease toward higher latitudes because predation rates are predicted to decrease with latitude. However, latitudinal variation in predator avoidance and defense mechanisms has seldom been studied. We studied tadpole antipredator defenses in seven Rana temporaria populations collected along a 1500-km latitudinal gradient across Sweden, along which previous studies have found increasing tadpole growth and development rates. In a laboratory common garden experiment, we measured behavioral and morphological defenses by raising tadpoles in the presence and absence of a predator (Aeshna dragonfly larva) in two temperature treatments. We also estimated tadpole survival in the presence of free-ranging predators and compared predator densities between R. temporaria breeding ponds situated at low and high latitudes. Activity and foraging were generally positively correlated with latitude in the common garden experiment. While all populations responded to predator presence by decreasing activity and foraging, high-latitude populations maintained higher activity levels in the presence of the predator. All populations exhibited defensive morphology in body and tail shape. However, whereas tail depth tended to increase with latitude in the presence of predator, it did not change with latitude in the absence of the predator. Predator presence generally increased larval period and decreased growth rate. In the southern populations, predator presence tended to have a negative effect on metamorphic size, whereas in the northern populations predators had little or a positive effect on size. Latitude of origin had a strong effect on survival in the presence of a free-ranging predator, with high-latitude tadpoles experiencing higher mortality than those from the low latitudes. In the wild, predator densities were significantly lower in high-latitude than in mid-latitude breeding ponds. Although the higher activity level in the northern populations seems to confer a significant survival disadvantage under predation risk, it is probably needed to maintain the high growth and development rates. However, the occurrence of R. temporaria at high latitudes may be facilitated by the lower predator densities in the north.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Pages (from-to)1399–1413
    Number of pages15
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2008
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • activity
    • amphibians
    • growth
    • inducible defenses
    • latitudinal gradient
    • life history
    • morphology
    • population differentiation
    • predation
    • Rana temporaria

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