Breeding behaviour of ectotherms at high latitudes: the case of the natterjack toad Epidalea calamita at its northern range limit

In: Behaviour
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  • 1 Department of Zoology, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Vanemuise 46, 51014 Tartu, Estonia
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We explored the breeding behaviour of a threatened amphibian, the natterjack toad, at its northern range limit in Estonia, to determine the extent to which reproduction is affected by harsh and unstable climatic conditions. Using photo identification of specimens, we found that in optimal weather conditions males formed three breeding cohorts, while in adverse conditions only a single cohort occurred and under extreme conditions reproduction was skipped entirely. During the extended breeding season, larger males participated in reproduction throughout the breeding period, while smaller males appeared in later cohorts. Breeding success was related to the calling effort of a male, where larger males had greater mating success than smaller ones. We found that the natterjack toad males exhibit significant plasticity in reproductive behaviour at the northern range limit, which, given the energetic cost of reproduction and the increased risk of predation, allows them to increase their fitness at high latitudes.

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