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See detailMorph switching in a dimorphic population of Triturus alpestris (Amphibia, Caudata)
Denoël, Mathieu ULg; Lena, Jean-Paul; Joly, Pierre

in Evolutionary Ecology (2007), 21(3), 325-335

The usual life cycle of Alpine newts comprises an aquatic larval stage and a terrestrial juvenile and adult stage. However, some populations differ from this pattern in exhibiting facultative ... [more ▼]

The usual life cycle of Alpine newts comprises an aquatic larval stage and a terrestrial juvenile and adult stage. However, some populations differ from this pattern in exhibiting facultative paedomorphosis where some individuals reach sexual maturity while retaining larval traits such as gills and gill slits. While paedomorphic newts can, in some circumstances, initiate metamorphosis, once a newt has commenced metamorphosis, the state is irreversible. Because the frequency of this switching from one morph to the other has never been quantified in the wild, we attempted to estimate switching rate and survival by carrying out a 3-year monitoring survey of a population inhabiting an alpine lake. While morph switching did occur in this population, it involved a relatively low proportion of the paedomorphs (approx. 12%), suggesting that metamorphosis is not favoured in the study population. The hypothesis of paedomorphic advantage was not supported since neither survival nor body condition differed between morphs. The ontogenetic pathway of wild Alpine newts is thus characterised by two forks in the developmental pathway. The first occurs during the larval stage (metamorphosis vs. paedomorphosis), and the second occurs in paedomorphic adults (switching for metamorphosis vs. continuation of the paedomorphic lifestyle). Such a two-level decision process may allow individuals to cope with environmental uncertainty. [less ▲]

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