Competition for fertilization in multi-male group spawning can drive variation in male reproductive investment (i.e., testis mass and sperm size). Inter-population comparisons of variation in energetic availability and allocation along geographical gradients allow insights into the mechanisms shaping the reproductive investments of animals. Although inter-population differences in female reproductive investment (i.e., clutch size and egg size) have been studied extensively across a wide range of taxa, little information on variation in reproductive investment in males is available. Here, we studied altitudinal variation in testis mass and sperm length among three populations in the Jingdong tree frog (Hyla gongshanensis jingdongensis), a polyandrous species, in Yunnan Province in China. The results showed that individuals exhibited smaller testes at higher altitudes while testes mass was positively correlated with body size, body condition and age. Longer sperm length was observed in the middle-altitude population. Moreover, we found that sperm number was positively correlated with testes mass and sperm length. Our correlational findings suggest that environmental constraints at high altitude select for less investment in testes and offspring number.
Mercury is one of the most deleterious heavy metals in aquatic systems. Sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS) is a common surfactant, which may reach relatively high concentrations in aquatic systems. In the present study, water fleas (Moina macrocopa (Straus, 1820)) were exposed to different mercury and SDS concentrations for 24 and 48 h to examine the toxic effect of the two reagents on heart rate, body size and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity. The 24 h and 48 h LC50 values were 4.93 and 3.51 μg/l for mercury, and 12.74 and 4.55 mg/l for SDS, respectively. Increased heart rate was observed in water fleas treated with 1.5 and 2.0 μg/l mercury for 24 h and 48 h, suggesting that the animals were stressed. The size of water fleas decreased with increasing mercury concentration. An increase in SDS concentration and exposure time had a negative impact on the heart rate and size of the water fleas. A pronounced inhibition of AChE activity was observed in water fleas exposed to mercury and SDS concurrently. However, the AChE inhibition level was different between mercury and SDS, which may be inferred by different pollutants. Although mercury and SDS have different modes of action, the relation between decrease of physiological parameters and AChE inhibition were relatively close for these two compounds. We conclude that measurements of AChE activity can be used as a biomarker for different aquatic pollutants.
The digestive tract provides a functional relationship between energy intake and allocation. An understanding of effects of environmental factors on the evolution of digestive tract morphology is especially important. To investigate this, we studied the variation in digestive tract length across 10 populations of the Andrew’s toad (Bufo andrewsi) between 2012 and 2015 in Sichuan province, western China. These populations were collected in different habitats varying in temperature and precipitation. The results reveal an increase in the length of the digestive tract and gut with increasing temperature and decreasing precipitation, when controlling for the effect of body size. Our findings suggest that individuals of populations living in high-temperature and low-precipitation environments have longer digestive tracts, possibly because they consume less animal-based foods and more high-fiber foods.
Because the brain is one of the energetically most expensive organs of animals, trade-offs have been hypothesized to exert constraints on brain size evolution. The expensive-tissue hypothesis predicts that the cost of a large brain should be compensated by decreasing size of other metabolically costly tissues, such as the gut. Here, we analyzed the relationships between relative brain size and the size of other metabolically costly tissues (i.e., gut, heart, lung, kidney, liver, spleen or limb muscles) among four Fejervarya limnocharis populations to test the predictions of the expensive-tissue hypothesis. We did not find that relative brain size was negatively correlated with relative gut length after controlling for body size, which was inconsistent with the prediction of the expensive-tissue hypothesis. We also did not find negative correlations between relative brain mass and relative size of the other energetically expensive organs. Our findings suggest that the cost of large brains in F. limnocharis cannot be compensated by decreasing size in other metabolically costly tissues.
Environmental cues play important roles in the regulation of an animal’s physiology and behavior. The purpose of the present study was to test the hypothesis that ambient temperature was a cue to induce adjustments in body mass, energy intake and thermogenic capacity, associated with changes in serum leptin levels in Eothenomys miletus. We found that E. miletus increased resting metabolic rate (RMR) and energy intake and decreased body mass when exposed to cold while it showed a significant increase in body mass after rewarming. The increase in body mass after rewarming was associated with the higher energy intake compared with the control. Uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) content in brown adipose tissue (BAT) increased in the cold and reversed after rewarming. Serum leptin levels decreased in the cold while increased after rewarming, associated with the opposite changes in energy intake. Further, serum leptin levels were positively correlated with body mass and body fat mass. Together, these data supported our hypothesis that ambient temperature was a cue to induce changes in body mass and metabolism. Serum leptin, as a starvation signal in the cold and satiety signal in rewarming, was involved in the processes of thermogenesis and body mass regulation in E. miletus.
Bergmann’s rule states that within a species of endotherms smaller individuals are found in warmer conditions, which is consistent for nearly all endotherms, while in ectotherms body size patterns are less consistent. As ectothermic vertebrates, the morphology of amphibians is likely impacted by climatic conditions. Here, we examined latitudinal variation in body size in the ranid frog, Fejervarya limnocharis, based on literature and our own data on mean body size of 3637 individuals from 50 populations and average age of 2873 individuals from 40 populations in China. The results showed that body size was positively correlated with environmental temperature, but not with precipitation. Body size was negatively correlated with latitude among populations in this species, which supported the inverse of Bergmann’s rule. Our findings suggest that a larger body size in low-latitude populations is associated with a longer growing season related to the higher environmental temperature.
The ‘cognitive buffer’ hypothesis predicts that the costs of relatively large brains are compensated for later in life by the increased benefits of large brains providing a higher chance of survival under changing environments through flexible behaviors in the animal kingdom. Thus, animals that live in a larger range (with a higher probability of environmental variation) are expected to have larger brains than those that live in a restricted geographic range. Here, to test the prediction of the ‘cognitive buffer’ hypothesis that larger brains should be expected to occur in species living in geographic ranges of larger size, we analyzed the relationship between the size of the geographic range and brain size and the size of various brain regions among 42 species of anurans using phylogenetic comparative methods. The results show that there is no correlation between relative brain size and size of the species’ geographic range when correcting for phylogenetic effects and body size. Our findings suggest that the effects of the cognitive buffer and the energetic constraints on brains result in non-significant variation in overall brain size. However, the geographic range is positively correlated with cerebellum size, but not with optic tecta, suggesting that species distributed in a wider geographic range do not exhibit larger optic tecta which would provide behavioral flexibility to allow for an early escape from potential predators and discovery of new food resources in unpredictable environments.
Variation in organ structure likely provides important clues on local adaptation and reflects the pressure target of natural selection. As one of the important organs, the skin plays a key role in adapting to complex environments by reducing water loss or increasing water absorption. Nevertheless, variation in the skin structure across different populations in a single species of anurans remains enigmatic. Here, we studied geographical variation in the skin structure of male Andrew’s toads (Bufo andrewsi) across ten populations using histological methods. We quantified thickness of the skin, the epidermis, the loose layer, the compact layer, and of the epidermis, area of granular glands (GGs) and of ordinary mucous glands (OMGs), width of the calcified layer, and number of capillary vessels. We found that the thickness of the skin, dermis and loose layer in dorsal skin increased with latitude whereas the area of granular glands decreased with altitude. Moreover, the width of the calcified layer in ventral skin decreased with latitude among populations. Our findings suggest that geographical variation in skin structure in male B. andrewsi is likely to reduce water loss or make water absorption occur faster in complex high-latitude environments, improving local adaptation.
Environmental cues play important roles in the regulation of an animal's physiology and behavior. The purpose of the present study was to test the hypothesis that ambient temperature was a cue to induce adjustments in body mass, energy intake and thermogenic capacity, associated with the role of the liver for adaptive thermogenesis in tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri), a unique species of small mammals in the Oriental realm. Many targets were measured, such as the state 3 and the state 4 of mitochondrial respiration, the protein content of mitochondria of the liver in T. belangeri under prolonged cold acclimation (5±1°C, 12L : 12D light cycle) during different times [0 d (control), 7 d, 14 d, 21 d, 28 d]. We found the total protein, mitochondrial protein, and the state 3 and the state 4 of mitochondrial respiration of the liver greatly increased by 39.9%, 39.3%, 84.9% and 181.1% after 28 d in T. belangeri when exposed to cold, as compared with the controls, respectively. Thus, the liver plays a key role in the adaptive thermogenesis during cold acclimation in tree shrews; we believed that evidence from the physiological ecology is equally supportive of the island origin of tree shrews, T. belangeri.
The expensive tissue hypothesis predicts a trade-off between investments in the brain and other energetically costly organs due to the costs associated with their growth and maintenance within the finite energy resources available. However, few studies address the strength of relationships between brain size and investments in precopulatory (ornaments and armaments) and postcopulatory (testes and ejaculates) sexual traits. Here, in a broad comparative study, we tested the prediction that the relationship between brain size and investment in sexual traits differs among taxa relative to the importance of sperm competition within them. We found that brain size was negatively correlated with sexual size dimorphism (SSD) in anurans and primates, and it tended to decrease with SSD in ungulates and cetaceans. However, brain size did not covary significantly with armaments (e.g., canine length, horn, antler, and muscle mass). Brain size was not correlated with postcopulatory sexual traits (testes and ejaculates). The intensity of covariance between brain size and precopulatory sexual traits decreased with increasing relative testis size.