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Title: Responses to saltwater exposure vary across species, populations and life stages in anuran amphibians

To predict the impacts of environmental change on species, we must first understand the factors that limit the present-day ranges of species. Most anuran amphibians cannot survive at elevated salinities, which may drive their distribution in coastal locations. Previous research showed that coastal Hyla cinerea are locally adapted to brackish habitats in North Carolina, USA. Although Hyla squirella and Hyla chrysoscelis both inhabit coastal wetlands nearby, they have not been observed in saline habitats. We take advantage of naturally occurring microgeographic variation in coastal wetland occupancy exhibited by these congeneric tree frog species to explore how salt exposure affects oviposition site choice, hatching success, early tadpole survival, plasma osmolality and tadpole body condition across coastal and inland locations. We observed higher survival among coastal H. cinerea tadpoles than inland H. cinerea, which corroborates previous findings. But contrary to expectations, coastal H. cinerea had lower survival than H. squirella and H. chrysoscelis, indicating that all three species may be able to persist in saline wetlands. We also observed differences in tadpole plasma osmolality across species, locations and salinities, but these differences were not associated with survival rates in salt water. Instead, coastal occupancy may be affected by stage-specific processes like higher probability of total clutch loss as shown by inland H. chrysoscelis or maladaptive egg deposition patterns as shown by inland H. squirella. Although we expected salt water to be the primary filter driving species distributions along a coastal salinity gradient, it is likely that the factors dictating anuran ranges along the coast involve stage-, species- and location-specific processes that are mediated by ecological processes and life history traits.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Conservation Physiology
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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