Apr 2, 2020

Tadpoles of the hybridising fire-bellied toads (Bombina bombina and B. variegata) differ in their susceptibility to predation

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
R. SmolinskyB. Nürnberger


The role of adaptive divergence in the formation of new species has been the subject of much recent debate. The most direct evidence comes from traits that can be shown to have diverged under natural selection and that now contribute to reproductive isolation. Here, we make the case for differential adaptation of two fire-bellied toads (Anura, Bombinatoridae) to two types of aquatic habitat. Bombina bombina and B. variegata are two anciently diverged taxa that now reproduce in predator-rich ponds and ephemeral aquatic sites, respectively. Nevertheless, they hybridise extensively wherever their distribution ranges adjoin. We show in laboratory experiments that, as expected, B. variegata tadpoles are at relatively greater risk of predation from dragonfly larvae, even when they display a predator-induced phenotype. These tadpoles spent relatively more time swimming and so prompted more attacks from the visually hunting predators. We predict that genomic regions linked to high activity in B. variegata are barred from introgression into the B. bombina gene pool and thus contribute to gene flow barriers that keep the two taxa from merging into one.

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