Corticosterone Mediates a Growth-Survival Tradeoff for an Amphibian Exposed to Increased Salinity
Life-history tradeoffs are common across taxa, but growth-survival tradeoffs—which usually enhance survival at a cost to growth—are less frequently investigated. Increased salinity (NaCl) is a prevalent anthropogenic disturbance that may cause a growth-survival tradeoff for amphibians. Although physiological mechanisms mediating tradeoffs are seldom investigated, hormones are prime candidates. Corticosterone (CORT) is a steroid hormone that independently influences survival and growth and may provide mechanistic insight into growth-survival tradeoffs. We used 24-d trials to test effects of salinity (0 – 4000 mg/L Cl-) on growth, development, survival, CORT responses, and tradeoffs among traits of larval Northern Leopard Frogs (Rana pipiens). We also tested experimentally suppressed CORT signaling to determine whether CORT signaling mediates effects of salinity and life history tradeoffs . Increased salinity reduced survival, growth, and development. Suppressing CORT signaling in conjunction with salinity reduced survival further, but also attenuated negative effects of salinity on growth and development. CORT of control larvae increased or was stable with growth and development, but decreased with growth and development for those exposed to salinity. Therefore, salinity dysregulated CORT physiology. Across all treatments, larvae that survived had higher CORT than larvae that died. By manipulating CORT signaling, we provide strong evidence that CORT physiology mediates the outcome of a growth-survival tradeoff. To our knowledge, this is the first study to concomitantly measure tradeoffs between growth and survival and experimentally link these changes to CORT physiology. Identifying mechanistic links between stressors and fitness-related outcomes is critical to enhance our understanding of tradeoffs.
|Outlet/Publisher:||Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A|