Seasonality determines patterns of growth and age structure over a geographic gradient in an ectothermic vertebrate

Mårten B. Hjernquist, Fredrik Söderman, K. Ingemar Jönsson, Gábor Herczeg, Anssi Laurila, Juha Merilä

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental variation connected with seasonality is likely to affect the evolution of life-history strategies in ectotherms, but there is no consensus as to how important life-history traits like body size are influenced by environmental variation along seasonal gradients. We compared adult body size, skeletal growth, mean age, age at first reproduction and longevity among 11 common frog (Rana temporaria) populations sampled along a 1,600-km-long latitudinal gradient across Scandinavia. Mean age, age at first reproduction and longevity increased linearly with decreasing growth season length. Lifetime activity (i. e. the estimated number of active days during life-time) was highest at mid-latitudes and females had on average more active days throughout their lives than males. Variation in body size was due to differences in lifetime activity among populations-individuals (especially females) were largest where they had the longest cumulative activity period-as well as to differences between populations in skeletal growth rate as determined by skeletochronological analyses. Especially, males grew faster at intermediate latitudes. While life-history trait variation was strongly associated with latitude, the direction and shape of these relationships were sex- and trait-specific. These context-dependent relationships may be the result of life-history trade-offs enforced by differences in future reproductive opportunities and time constraints among the populations. Thus, seasonality appears to be an important environmental factor shaping life-history trait variation in common frogs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)641-649
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 8 2012


  • Body size
  • Ectotherms
  • Latitude
  • Rana temporaria
  • Temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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