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Nothing as it seems: Behavioral and morphological plasticity appear correlated but are not in a Neotropical tadpole

Citation

Reuben, Phoebe; Touchon, Justin (2021), Nothing as it seems: Behavioral and morphological plasticity appear correlated but are not in a Neotropical tadpole, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.w3r2280mm

Abstract

In response to environmental stressors, organisms often demonstrate flexible responses in morphology, life-history, or behaviour. However, it is currently unclear if such plastic responses are coordinated or operate independent of one another. In vertebrates, this may partly result from studies examining population- or species- level mean responses, as opposed to finer-grained analyses of individuals or families. We measured predator-specific morphological and colouration plasticity in 42 families of tadpoles of the treefrog Dendropsophus ebraccatus, and behavioural plasticity from 18 of these families, allowing us to examine the correlation between three predator-induced plastic responses. For all three plastic responses, tadpoles showed strong opposing responses to each of two predators, providing the appearance of co-variation in plasticity. However, examination of individual families revealed strong correlation between morphological and colouration plasticity, but no correlations between either morphology or colour and behavioural plasticity. Thus, our analysis shows that some aspects of the plastic phenotype develop together while others function independently. This highlights the importance of examining individual- and family-level variation for understanding the adaptive significance of developmental plasticity, which is crucial for a holistic appreciation of phenotypic plasticity and its importance in ecology and evolution.