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  • Author or Editor: Mao Jun Zhong x
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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.

In: Animal Biology

Muscles are vital for the process of movement, mating and escape of predators in amphibians. During evolution, the morphological and genetic characteristics as well as the size of muscles in species will change to adapt different environments. Theory predicts that low male-male competition in high-altitude/latitude selects for small limb muscles. Here, we used the Andrew’s toad (Bufo andrewsi) as a model animal to test this prediction by analyzing geographical variation in the mass of limb muscles across nine populations from the Hengduan Mountains in China. Inconsistent with the prediction, we found that latitude and altitude did not affect the relative mass of total combined limb muscles and mass of combined hindlimb muscles among populations. Meanwhile, the relative mass of combined forelimb muscles, the two forelimb muscles (flexor carpi radialis and extensor carpi radialis) and the four hindlimb muscles (e.g. biceps femoris, semimebranous, semitendinosus and peroneus) was lowest in middle latitude and largest in low latitude whereas gracilis minor was largest in high latitudes. However, we did not find any correlations between the two forelimb muscles and the four hindlimb muscles and altitude. Our findings suggest that combined forelimb muscles, flexor carpi radialis, extensor carpi radialis, biceps femoris, semimebranous, semitendinosus and peroneus are largest in low latitudes due to pressures of mate competition.

In: Animal Biology

Abstract

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.

In: Animal Biology

Abstract

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.

In: Animal Biology