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Thermal adaptations to extreme freeze-thaw cycles in the high tropical Andes


Reider, Kelsey (2020), Thermal adaptations to extreme freeze-thaw cycles in the high tropical Andes, Dryad, Dataset,


Temperature plays a key role in the biology of ectotherms, including anurans, which are found at higher elevations in the tropics than anywhere in the temperate zone. High-elevation tropical environments are characterized by extreme daily thermal fluctuation including high daily maxima and nightly freezing. Our study investigated the contrasting operative temperatures of the anurans Telmatobius marmoratus and Pleurodema marmoratum in different environmental contexts at the same elevation and biome above 5200 meters. Telmatobius marmoratus avoids extremes of daily temperature fluctuation by utilizing thermally buffered aquatic habitat at all life stages, with minimal operative temperature variation (range: 4.6–8.0°C). Pleurodema marmoratum, in contrast, experienced operative temperatures from -3.5 to 44°C  and has one of the widest thermal breadths reported for any tropical frog, from >32°C (critical thermal maximum) to surviving freezing periods of 1 hr and 6 hr down to -3.0°C. Our findings expand experimental evidence of frost tolerance in amphibians to the widespread Neotropical family Leptodactylidae, the first such evidence of frost tolerance in a tropical amphibian. Our study identifies three strategies (wide thermal tolerance breadth, use of buffered microhabitats, and behavioral thermoregulation), which allow these tropical frogs to withstand the current wide daily thermal fluctuation above 5000 masl and which may help them adapt to future climatic changes.

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