High clutch failure rate due to unpredictable rainfall for an ephemeral pool-breeding frog

John Gould, John Clulow, Simon Clulow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Animals that reproduce in temporary aquatic systems expose their offspring to a heightened risk of desiccation, as they must race to complete development and escape before water levels recede. Adults must therefore synchronise reproduction with the changing availability of water, yet the conditions they experience to trigger such an event may not relate to those offspring face throughout development, potentially leading to clutch failure. The sandpaper frog (Lechriodus fletcheri) breeds in ephemeral pools that dry within days to weeks after rainfall has ceased. We examined whether spawning frequency and offspring survival differed across two consecutive breeding seasons based on (1) rainfall at the moment of oviposition and throughout offspring development, and (2) pool volume, given their combined effect on hydroperiod. Reproduction was triggered by rainfall, with more spawn laid during periods of greater rainfall and in larger pools. While pool size was a predictor of offspring survival, rainfall during oviposition was not. Rather, follow-up rain events were required to prevent pools drying prior to metamorphosis, with rainfall evenness during development the strongest predictor of reproductive success. High clutch failure rates recorded in both seasons suggest that adults do not have the capability to predict rainfall frequency post-oviposition. We thus conclude that unpredictable rainfall leading to premature desiccation of spawning sites is the primary source of pre-metamorphic mortality for this species. Understanding the influence of rainfall predictability on offspring survival could be critical in predicting the effects of altered hydroperiod regimes due to climate change for species that exploit temporary waters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-710
Number of pages12
JournalOecologia
Volume198
Issue number3
Early online date5 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

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