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Developmental temperature influences color polymorphism but not hatchling size in a woodland salamander.

Oecologia (2020-03-13)
Annette E Evans, Mark C Urban, Elizabeth L Jockusch

Phenotypic plasticity can be an important adaptive response to climate change, particularly for dispersal-limited species. Temperature frequently alters developmental and phenotypic traits including morphology, behavior, and reproductive cycles. We often lack crucial information about if and how thermal conditions during development will interact with genetic responses and facilitate persistence or adaptation under climate change. Polymorphic species offer an ideal test for this, as alternative morphs often confer differential adaptive advantages. However, few studies have examined the effects of incubation temperature on color expression or development in polymorphic taxa. Here we test if developmental temperature mediates morph frequency in the polymorphic salamander Plethodon cinereus. Although previous research suggests geographic variation in morph proportions results from differential climate adaptation, it remains unknown if plasticity also contributes to this variation. We used a split-clutch common garden experiment to determine the effects of developmental temperature on the color and development of P. cinereus. Our results indicate developmental temperature affects coloration in P. cinereus, either via plasticity or differential mortality, with eggs incubated at warmer temperatures yielding a higher proportion of unstriped individuals than those from cooler temperatures. This temperature response may contribute to the spatial variation in morph frequencies in natural populations. Surprisingly, we found neither temperature nor egg size affected hatchling size. Our study provides important insights into the potential for climate-induced responses to preserve diversity in dispersal-limited species, like P. cinereus, and enable time for adaptive evolution.

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[des-Gly10, D-Ala6]-LH-RH ethylamide acetate salt hydrate, ≥97% (HPLC), powder