Frogs exhibit extreme plasticity and individual variation in growth and behavior during metamorphosis, driven by interactions of intrinsic state factors and extrinsic environmental factors. In northern red-legged frogs (Rana aurora Baird and Girard, 1852), we studied the timing of departure from the natal pond as it relates to date and size of individuals at metamorphosis in the context of environmental uncertainty. To affect body size at metamorphosis, we manipulated food availability during the larval stage for a sample (317) of 1045 uniquely marked individuals and released them at their natal ponds as newly metamorphosed frogs. We recaptured 34% of marked frogs in pitfall traps as they departed and related the timing of their initial terrestrial movements to individual properties using a time-to-event model. Median age at first capture was 4 and 9 days postmetamorphosis at two sites. The rate of departure was positively related to body size and to date of metamorphosis. Departure rate was strongly negatively related to time elapsed since rainfall, and this effect was diminished for smaller and later metamorphosing frogs. Individual variation in metamorphic traits thus affects individuals' responses to environmental variability, supporting a behavioral link with variation in survival associated with these same metamorphic traits. ?? 2008 NRC.
Additional publication details
Individual variation affects departure rate from the natal pond in an ephemeral pond-breeding anuran