Rapid adaptive response to a Mediterranean environment reduces phenotypic mismatch in a recent amphibian invader.
Invasive species frequently cope with ecological conditions that are different from those to which they adapted, presenting an opportunity to investigate how phenotypes change across short time scales. In 2000, the guttural toad Sclerophrys gutturalis was first detected in a peri-urban area of Cape Town, where it is now invasive. The ability of the species to invade Cape Town is surprising as the area is characterized by a Mediterranean climate significantly drier and colder than that of the native source area. We measured field hydration state of guttural toads from the invasive Cape Town population and a native source population from Durban. We also obtained from laboratory trials: rates of evaporative water loss and water uptake, sensitivity of locomotor endurance to hydration state, critical thermal minimum (CTmin) and sensitivity of CTmin to hydration state. Field hydration state of invasive toads was significantly lower than that of native toads. Although the two populations had similar rates of water loss and uptake, invasive toads were more efficient in minimizing water loss through postural adjustments. In locomotor trials, invasive individuals noticeably outperformed native individuals when dehydrated but not when fully hydrated. CTmin was lower in invasive individuals than in native individuals, independent of hydration state. Our results indicate that an invasive population that is only 20 years old shows adaptive responses that reduce phenotypic mismatch with the novel environment. The invasion potential of the species in Cape Town is higher than we could infer from its characteristics in the native source population.