Environmental change can simultaneously cause abiotic stress and alter biological communities, yet adaptation of natural populations to co-changing environmental factors is poorly understood. We studied adaptation to acid and predator stress in six moor frog (Rana arvalis) populations along an acidification gradient, where abundance of invertebrate predators increases with increasing acidity of R. arvalis breeding ponds. First, we quantified divergence among the populations in anti-predator traits (behaviour and morphology) at different rearing conditions in the laboratory (factorial combinations of acid or neutral pH and the presence or the absence of a caged predator). Second, we evaluated relative fitness (survival) of the populations by exposing tadpoles from the different rearing conditions to predation by free-ranging dragonfly larvae. We found that morphological defences (relative tail depth) as well as survival of tadpoles under predation increased with increasing pond acidity (under most experimental conditions). Tail depth and larval size mediated survival differences among populations, but the contribution of trait divergence to survival was strongly dependent on prior rearing conditions. Our results indicate that R. arvalis populations are adapted to the elevated predator pressure in acidified ponds and emphasize the importance of multifarious selection via both direct (here: pH) and indirect (here: predators) environmental changes.
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - 7 Apr 2014|