Temperature-mediated trade-off between development and performance in larval wood frogs (Rana sylvatica)

David K. Skelly and 2 other contributors

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    Countergradient variation has been detected in diverse taxa. In a common manifestation, individuals from colder environments develop faster than conspecifics from warmer environments when placed in a common garden. Where such a pattern exists, it implies a trade-off: Individuals from warmer environments have intrinsic rates of development lower than those demonstrated by other individuals of the same species. We explored a trade-off between development rate and locomotor performance in the wood frog (Rana sylvatica), an amphibian for which countergradient variation has been well documented. We reared wood frogs from 10 populations under two temperature regimes, bracketing the temperatures observed in local natural ponds. Individuals reared under warmer conditions developed more rapidly but exhibited burst speeds 20% lower than individuals reared under colder conditions. The slope of the reaction norm was consistent across the 10 populations and thus, we found no evidence of countergradient variation in performance. Burst speed assays of wild-caught tadpoles from the same populations showed a similar but nonsignificant trend, with greater variability among ponds. Overall, our findings support the existence of a development-performance trade-off that may be of broad importance and which may help explain the widespread occurrence of countergradient variation.