Relations between conspecific density and effects of ultraviolet-B radiation on tadpole size in the striped marsh frog

Toby Mitchell, Lesley Alton, Craig Robert White, Craig E Franklin

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Global increases in ultraviolet-B radiation (UVBR) associated with stratospheric ozone depletion are potentially contributing to the decline of numerous amphibian species around the world. Exposure to UVBR alone reduces survival and induces a range of sublethal effects in embryonic and larval amphibians. When additional environmental stressors are present, UVBR can have compounding negative effects. Thus, examination of the effects of UVBR in the absence of other stressors may substantially underestimate its potential to affect amphibians in natural habitats. We examined the independent and interactive effects of increased UVBR and high conspecific density would have embryonic and larval striped marsh frogs (Limnodynastes peronii). We exposed individuals to a factorial combination of low and high UVBR levels and low, medium, and high densities of striped marsh frog tadpoles. The response variables were time to hatching, hatching success, posthatch survival, burst-swimming performance of tadpoles (maximum instantaneous swim speed following an escape response), and size and morphology of tadpoles. Consistent with results of previous studies, we found that exposure to UVBR alone increased the time to hatching of embryos and reduced the burst-swimming performance and size of tadpoles. Similarly, increasing conspecific density increased the time to hatching of embryos and reduced the size of tadpoles, but had no effect on burst-swimming performance. The negative effect of UVBR on tadpole size was not apparent at high densities of tadpoles. This result suggests that tadpoles living at higher densities may invest relatively less energy in growth and thus have more energy to repair UVBR-induced damage. Lower densities of conspecifics increased the negative effects of UVBR on developing amphibians. Thus, low-density populations, which may include declining populations, may be particularly susceptible to the detrimental effects of increased UVBR and thus may be driven toward extinction faster than might be expected on the basis of results from single-factor studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1112 - 1120
Number of pages9
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • amphibian declines
  • interactive effects
  • multiple stressors
  • ozone depletion

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