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Maintenance of phenotypic plasticity is linked to oxidative stress in spadefoot toad larvae

Cite this dataset

Burraco, Pablo; Gomez-Mestre, Ivan; Rendón, Miguel Angel; Diaz-Paniagua, Carmen (2022). Maintenance of phenotypic plasticity is linked to oxidative stress in spadefoot toad larvae [Dataset]. Dryad.


Phenotypic plasticity allows organisms to improve the match between their phenotype and heterogeneous environments. Theoretical models have argued that costs of maintaining the sensory and response machinery necessary for adaptive phenotypic plasticity are important determinants to the evolution of plasticity. Despite recurrent arguments invoking putative metabolic costs associated with maintenance of cellular machinery, no studies have yet attempted to quantify it from a molecular standpoint. Here we experimentally examine physiological differences across genotypes (sibships) of spadefoot toad larvae with different degrees of plasticity in response to predator cues. We observed marked differences across sibships in developmental, growth and morphological responses to predators, and tested whether increased plasticity was associated with oxidative stress or immune suppression. We observed that more plastic sibships experienced higher antioxidant enzymatic activity when reared in the absence of predator cues, i.e. not expressing their plastic responses. The degree of plasticity was also associated with higher lipid peroxidation and slightly greater granulocyte-to-lymphocyte ratio. Higher antioxidant activity in highly plastic sibships suggests that maintenance of phenotypic plasticity may be linked to energy demanding metabolic processes. Our findings suggest that having the potential to produce plastic responses may incur oxidative and immunological costs. In the long term, such maintenance costs may erode individual fitness and even constrain the evolution of plasticity. To our knowledge, this is the first empirical evidence indicating the existence of a physiological cost to the maintenance of phenotypic plasticity.