Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Growing up in a new world: trait divergence between rural, urban, and invasive populations of an amphibian urban invader.

Abstract

Cities are focal points of introduction for invasive species. Urban evolution might facilitate the success of invasive species in recipient urban habitats. Here we test this hypothesis by rearing tadpoles of a successful amphibian urban coloniser and invader in a common garden environment. We compared growth rate, morphological traits, swimming performance, and developmental rate of guttural toad tadpoles (Sclerophrys gutturalis) from native rural, native urban, and non-native urban habitats. By measuring these traits across ontogeny, we were also able to compare divergence across different origins as the tadpoles develop. The tadpoles of non-native urban origin showed significantly slower developmental rate (e.g., the proportion of tadpoles reaching Gosner stage 31 or higher was lower at age 40 days) than tadpoles of native urban origin. Yet, tadpoles did not differ in growth rate or any morphological or performance trait examined, and none of these traits showed divergent ontogenetic changes between tadpoles of different origin. These findings suggest that prior adaptation to urban habitats in larval traits likely does not play an important role in facilitating the invasion success of guttural toads into other urban habitats. Instead, we suggest that evolutionary changes in larval traits after colonization (e.g., developmental rate), together with decoupling of other traits and phenotypic plasticity might explain how this species succeeded in colonising extra-limital urban habitats.