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Morphological shifts in populations of generalist and specialist amphibians in response to fragmentation of the brazilian Atlantic forest

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Abstract

Changes in morphological traits, such as body size, body condition, and leg length, are important indicators of changes to life history or habitat quality, which can affect the performance of individuals and therefore the persistence of populations under environmental change. Only very few studies assessed the effect of fragmentation on morphological traits. The few available studies on anurans found that in landscapes with less forest cover body size decreased. Therefore, we predict that body size should also be smaller in fragments compared to continuous forest. Body condition is a further trait closely related to individual performance and thus should decline with more adverse conditions, as is expected in fragments. We tested these hypotheses using snout-vent length, body mass, body condition, and tibia length as response variables. We collected data of a habitat generalist (Rhinella ornata) and a habitat specialist (Ischnocnema guentheri), both leaf-litter amphibian species, from three sites in a fragmented landscape (two isolated and one connected site) and one site in a contiguous part of the Atlantic Forest of Southeast Brazil. In the generalist species, snout-vent-length (SVL) and body mass were significantly lower in fragments compared to the contiguous forest control, whereas tibia length and body condition did not differ among sites. In contrast, SVL, body mass, and tibia length of the specialist species did not differ among sites, but body condition was marginally different among sites, being relatively low in one but not the other isolated fragment. The results indicate that different processes affect the morphology of the two species following habitat fragmentation.

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Steinicke, H., Gruber, B., Grimm, A., Grosse, W. R., & Henle, K. (2015). Morphological shifts in populations of generalist and specialist amphibians in response to fragmentation of the brazilian Atlantic forest. Nature Conservation, 13, 47–59. https://doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.13.7428

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