Jumping performance and repeatability of newly metamorphosed and parental leopard frogs (Rana sphenocephala and Rana blairi)


Differential fitness between hybrid and parental genotypes plays a critical role in explaining the maintenance of natural hybrid zones as well as the production of novel genetic variation that may lead to diversification. Because locomotor performance is a reliable and practical measure of potential fitness related to morphological variation, we tested for differences in jumping performance among parental and hybrid genotypes of newly metamorphosed leopard frogs (Rana sphenocephala and Rana blairi). Tadpoles of the parental species and primary and backcross hybrid tadpoles, generated from artificial crosses (a total of five genotypes), were reared at two initial larval densities. Locomotor performance of newly metamorphosed frogs, as measured by jumping ability, was tested three times over 6 days in the laboratory at 24-25°C. Maximum and average jump lengths were greater for metamorphs reared at low larval density than for those reared at high density. Regression analyses indicated that 70-79% of the variation in jump length was due to body mass. When reared at low density, metamorphs of two F1 backcross genotypes (HB and HS) and one primary hybrid genotype (SB) jumped shorter distances than either parental species. When reared at high density, hybrid performance was indistinguishable from that of the parentals, except for one backcross hybrid (HB). Moderately high short-term repeatabilities (0.47-0.66) of metamorphs reared at the high density indicate that measures of performance in newly metamorphosed frogs can be predictive. We suggest that, owing to poor jumping performance, some hybrid frogs would be at a selective disadvantage relative to their parental species in the terrestrial environment and thus would partially reinforce mechanisms of reproductive isolation in this leopard frog system. Yet equivalent performance of some hybrids relative to the parentals, at least when reared at low density, suggests that hybrid lineages also have the potential to evolve independently in some environments.

Publication Title

Canadian Journal of Zoology