Extensive geographical variation in testes size and ejaculate traits in a terrestrial-breeding frog

Date: 30, Sep, 2020
Author(s):   Rudin-Bitterli, T.S., Mitchell, N.J., Evans, J.P.
Publisher: Biology Letters

Ejaculate traits vary extensively among individuals and species, but little is known about their variation among populations of the same species. Here, we investigated patterns of intraspecific variation in male reproductive investment in the terrestrial-breeding frog Pseudophryne guentheri. Like most anurans, breeding activity in P. guentheri is cued by precipitation, and therefore the timing and duration of breeding seasons differ among geographically separated populations, potentially leading to differences in the level of sperm competition. We, therefore, anticipated local adaptation in sperm traits that reflect these phenological differences among populations. Our analysis of six natural populations across a rainfall gradient revealed significant divergence in testes and ejaculate traits that correspond with annual rainfall and rainfall seasonality; males from the northern and drier edge of the species range had significantly smaller testes containing fewer, smaller and less motile sperm compared with those from mesic central populations. These findings may reflect spatial variation in the strength of postcopulatory sexual selection, likely driven by local patterns of precipitation.