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Open Access Research article

Coexistence of diploid and triploid hybrid water frogs: population differences persist in the apparent absence of differential survival

Ditte G Christiansen*, Christian Jakob, Martina Arioli, Sandra Roethlisberger and Heinz-Ulrich Reyer

Author Affiliations

Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland

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BMC Ecology 2010, 10:14  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-10-14

Published: 27 May 2010

Abstract

Background

The role of differential selection in determining the geographic distribution of genotypes in hybrid systems has long been discussed, but not settled. The present study aims to asses the importance of selection in structuring all-hybrid Pelophylax esculentus populations. These populations, in which the parental species (P. lessonae with genotype LL and P. ridibundus with genotype RR) are absent, have pond-specific proportions of diploid (LR) and triploid (LLR and LRR) genotypes.

Results

With data from 12 Swedish ponds, we first show that in spite of significant changes in genotype proportions over time, the most extreme ponds retained their differences over a six year study period. The uneven distribution of genotypes among ponds could be a consequence of differential selection varying among ponds (selection hypothesis), or, alternatively, of different gamete production patterns among ponds (gamete pattern hypothesis). The selection hypothesis was tested in adults by a six year mark-recapture study in all 12 ponds. As the relative survival and proportion of LLR, LR and LRR did not correlate within ponds, this study provided no evidence for the selection hypothesis in adults. Then, both hypotheses were tested simultaneously in juvenile stages (eggs, tadpoles, metamorphs and one year old froglets) in three of the ponds. A gradual approach to adult genotype proportions through successive stages would support the selection hypotheses, whereas the presence of adult genotype proportions already at the egg stage would support the gamete pattern hypothesis. The result was a weak preference for the gamete pattern hypothesis.

Conclusions

These results thus suggest that selection is of little importance for shaping genotype distributions of all-hybrid populations of P. esculentus, but further studies are needed for confirmation. Moreover, the study provided valuable data on genotype-specific body lengths, adult survival and sex ratios.