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Reproductive interference between Rana dalmatina and Rana temporaria affects reproductive success in natural populations


Experimental evidence suggests that reproductive interference between heterospecifics can seriously affect individual fitness; support from field studies for such an effect has, however, remained scarce. We studied reproductive interference in 25 natural breeding ponds in an area where two ranid frogs, Rana dalmatina and Rana temporaria, co-occur. The breeding seasons of the two species usually overlap and males of both species are often found in amplexus with heterospecific females, even though matings between heterospecifics produce no viable offspring. We estimated species abundance ratios based on the number of clutches laid and evaluated fertilization success. In ponds with low spatial complexity and a species abundance ratio biased towards R. temporaria, the average fertilization success of R. dalmatina eggs decreased, while this relationship was not detectable in spatially more complex ponds. Fertilization success of R. temporaria did not decrease with increasing relative numbers of heterospecifics. This asymmetry in fitness effects of reproductive interference may be attributed to R. temporaria males being more competitive in scramble competition for females than R. dalmatina males. Our study is among the first to demonstrate that in natural breeding populations of vertebrates interference among heterospecifics has the potential to substantially lower reproductive success at the population level, which may in turn affect population dynamics.

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We would like to thank Ákos Csillag, Réka Lakatos and Andrea Szabó for help in gathering data, two anonymous referees for comments on a previous version of the manuscript, Dustin J. Penn for continuing support, and the Pilisi Parkerdő Zrt. for allowing us to use their roads. The Közép-Duna-Völgyi KTVF issued the permission to conduct the study (KTVF:10350-2/2012) and the Ethical Commission of the University of Veterinary Medicine approved the investigation in accordance with Good Scientific Practice guidelines and national legislation. The research was supported by the Lendület Programme of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA, LP2012-24/2012). The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

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Correspondence to Attila Hettyey.

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Communicated by Jean-François Le Galliard.

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Hettyey, A., Vági, B., Kovács, T. et al. Reproductive interference between Rana dalmatina and Rana temporaria affects reproductive success in natural populations. Oecologia 176, 457–464 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-014-3046-z

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  • Anura
  • Fertilization success
  • Scramble competition
  • Sexual coercion
  • Population dynamics