High altitude frogs (Rana kukonoris) adopt a diversified bethedging strategy in the face of environmental unpredictability

Wei Chen*, Liqing Peng, Lichun Jiang, David A. Pike, Christopher R. Friesen, Gregory Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental unpredictability can influence strategies of maternal investment among eggs within a clutch. Models predict that breeding females should adopt a diversified bet-hedging strategy in unpredictable environments, but empirical field evidence from Asia is scarce. Here we tested this hypothesis by exploring spatial patterns in egg size along an altitudinal gradient in a frog species (Rana kukunoris) inhabiting the Tibetan Plateau. Within-clutch variability in egg size increased as the environment became variable (e.g., lower mean monthly temperature and mean monthly rainfall at higher altitudes), and populations in environments with more unpredictable rainfall produced eggs that were smaller and more variable in size. We provide support for a diversified bet-hedging strategy in high-altitude environments, which experience dynamic weather patterns and therefore are of unpredictable environmental quality. This strategy may be an adaptive response to lower environmental quality and higher unpredictable environmental variance. Such a strategy should increase the likelihood of breeding success and maximize maternal lifetime fitness by producing offspring that are adapted to current environmental conditions. We speculate that in high-altitude environments prone to physical disturbance, breeding females are unable to consistently produce the optimal egg size due to physiological constraints imposed by environmental conditions (e.g., duration of the active season, food availability). Species and populations whose breeding strategies are adapted to cope with uncertain environmental conditions by adjusting offspring size and therefore quality show a remarkable degree of ability to cope with future climatic changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-49
Number of pages7
JournalAsian Herpetological Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Altitude
  • Bet-hedging strategy
  • Egg size
  • Environmental quality
  • Unpredictable environment
  • Within-clutch variation

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