Altitudinal variation in body size in Bufo minshanicus supports Bergmann’s rule

  • Tong Lei YuEmail author
  • Dong Li Wang
  • Michael Busam
  • Yao Hui Deng
Original Paper


According to Bergmann’s rule, in endothermic species, body sizes of individuals tend to be larger in colder climates compared to those in warmer climates. Some ectotherms, including amphibians, have also been found to conform to this rule. However, the validity of this rule is disputed, as it is uncertain whether Bergmann’s clines are generally applicable to all anuran species. Here we studied altitudinal variation in mean body size, egg size, age, and growth rate in Bufo minshanicus across six altitudes in the eastern Tibetan Plateau. Our results showed that mean body size increased with increasing altitude, which is consistent with Bergmann’s rule. Toads from higher altitudes also tended to have faster growth rates and older mean ages of reproductively mature adults, but did not have larger egg sizes. We suggest that, as growth rate is positively correlated with altitude, and it contributes to body size variation more than mean age does, then this explains why this species follows Bergmann’s rule.


Age Altitude Bergmann’s rule Body size Bufo minshanicus Growth rate Life history 



We are very grateful to Wen-hua Qi, Yan-Liang Han and Ji-zu Ning for their assistance in the field. We especially thank the parents and uncle of TLY for helping during all phases of the data collection. All animals were collected under the guidelines for animal care in China. Handling and processing of frogs followed approved protocols from Animal Scientific Procedures Act 1988 by the State Department of China. The Gahai-Zecha National Nature Reserve Management Bureau approved this project (approval number GHZCRMB/03-212014), and gave permission for fieldwork. The study was funded by Emergency Management Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 31741019), Natural Science Foundation of Henan Province of China (Grant no. 182300410019), Foundation for University Key Teacher of Henan province (Grant no. 2016GGJS-098) and Program for Innovative Research Team (in Science and Technology) in universities of Henan Province (Grant no. 17IRTSTHN019). The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology, College of Life ScienceXinyang Normal UniversityXinyangChina
  2. 2.College of Agriculture and Natural ResourcesUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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