DOI: 10.7554/elife.88236 ISSN: 2050-084X

How hibernation in frogs drives brain and reproductive evolution in opposite directions

Wenbo Liao, Ying Jiang, Long Jin, Stefan Lüpold
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience

Environmental seasonality can promote the evolution of larger brains through cognitive and behavioral flexibility but can also hamper it when temporary food shortage is buffered by stored energy. Multiple hypotheses linking brain evolution with resource acquisition and allocation have been proposed for warm-blooded organisms, but it remains unclear how these extend to cold-blooded taxa whose metabolism is tightly linked to ambient temperature. Here, we integrated these hypotheses across frogs and toads in the context of varying brumation (hibernation) durations and their environmental correlates. We showed that protracted brumation covaried negatively with brain size but positively with reproductive investment, likely in response to brumation-dependent changes in the socio-ecological context and associated selection on different tissues. Our results provide novel insights into resource allocation strategies and possible constraints in trait diversification, which may have important implications for the adaptability of species under sustained environmental change.

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