Hybridization in leopard frogs (Rana pipiens complex): Terrestrial performance of newly metamorphosed hybrid and parental genotypes in field enclosures


Terrestrial ecology has been largely neglected in the study of amphibian life histories because it is difficult to manipulate most species during the terrestrial stage. I examined the terrestrial performance of Rana blairi, Rana sphenocephala, and four hybrid (two F1 and two advanced generation) genotypes in replicated experimental enclosures to test for differences in traits related to juvenile terrestrial fitness. I produced all genotypes by means of artificial fertilizations using frogs collected from natural populations in central Missouri, and juvenile frogs were obtained from larvae reared in experimental ponds. Following metamorphosis, froglets were raised in single-genotype groups in terrestrial enclosures through the first overwintering. The proportion surviving did not vary among genotypes, but the power to detect significant differences was low. F1 hybrid genotypes BS and SB demonstrated significantly higher growth rates than either parental species or advanced-generation hybrid genotypes. Observation of growth rates of advanced-generation hybrids equal to those of the parental species, and heterosis in F1 hybrids for growth rate, suggests that natural hybridization between R. blairi and R. sphenocephala can produce novel and relatively fit hybrid genotypes. Direct measurement of multiple fitness components for hybrid and parental genotypes is critical for assessing the evolutionary potential of natural hybridization in organisms with complex life cycles.

Publication Title

Canadian Journal of Zoology