Environmental stress shapes life-history variation in the swelled-vented frog (Feirana quadranus)

  • Xiaoyi Wang
  • Yan Huang
  • Maojun Zhong
  • Shengnan Yang
  • Xin Yang
  • Jianping Jiang
  • Junhua HuEmail author
Original Paper


Understanding how environmental stress modifies life-history traits of vertebrates is highly important for their conservation and management. Amphibians, in particular, have experienced rapid declines in abundance due to their relatively low mobility and strict physiological constraints. Therefore, it is important to understand how amphibians have evolved to cope with environmental stress, and to identify the relevant life-history traits that mediate these dynamics. In this study, we quantified the variation of life-history traits (i.e., body size and age) across the distributional range for a mountain frog species, Feirana quadranus, and identified potential impacts of environmental stress on these traits. Based on the similarity of environmental variables describing bioclimatic and ultraviolet-B radiation conditions from a hierarchical cluster analysis, all populations were assigned to three distinct groups: low, intermediate and high environmental harshness regimes. We found no significant difference in age structure among environmental regimes, with 68% of individuals being between four and six years old. The average age of individuals did not differ among regimes or between sexes, but snout-vent length (SVL) and hind limb length differed significantly among both. When environmental stress was represented along the principle component axes, we found a significant correlation between environmental stress and hind limb length, but not for age or SVL. Our results help us understand potential impacts of environmental stress on life-history variation in F. quadranus covering its whole distribution range. Specifically, our findings highlight the adaptive potential of amphibians to changing environmental conditions via life-history variation as a function of environmental stress.


Adaptive potential Environmental stress Life-history traits Qinling-Daba Mountains Skeletochronology 



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31572290, 31770568, 31270568), National Key Research and Development Plan (2016YFC0503303), Science and Technology Service Network Initiative CAS (KFJ-STS-ZDTP-013), and Youth Innovation Promotion Association CAS (2015304). We thank Huijie Qiao and Yang Liu for their help in data analysis and revision; Bin Wang, Jie Wang, Cheng Li, Shangling Lou, Jianping Yu and Qiang Wu for their help in the data collections. Many thanks to the Herpetological Museum of Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences for providing access to the specimens. We also thank Dr. Murphy Stephen at the Yale University for his assistance with language and grammatical editing of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Human and animal rights

The collection of specimens for this paper was part of a long-term series of studies of Feirana frogs carried out by the research team (e.g., Wang et al. 2009, 2012; Yang 2011; Yang et al. 2019). All animal handling and processing were in accordance with the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Wildlife and approved by the Animal Care Committee of CIB, CAS.

Supplementary material

10682_2019_9980_MOESM1_ESM.docx (475 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 475 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaoyi Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yan Huang
    • 1
    • 3
  • Maojun Zhong
    • 3
  • Shengnan Yang
    • 1
    • 3
  • Xin Yang
    • 1
  • Jianping Jiang
    • 1
  • Junhua Hu
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Chengdu Institute of BiologyChinese Academy of SciencesChengduChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Southwest China Wildlife Resources Conservation (Ministry of Education)China West Normal UniversityNanchongChina

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